An Essay on Individual and Organizational Responsibilities

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An Essay on Individual and Organizational Responsibilities
Morality as One among Other Aspects of Human Life

Piet Keizer

Abstract In this article we deal with the relationship between moral knowledge, moral sentiments and resentments and their relationship with other aspects of human life, such as the economic, social, psychic and political aspect. While the Ancient moral philosophers focused on the development of virtues and their relationship with personal and societal health, Modern moral philosophers stressed the relevance of reason (Kant) and moral sentiment (Hume) or resentment. The relationship between reason and sentiment can be clarified by presenting them in a design that is structured via the concept of moral vision. On the basis of a moral vision, which functions as a paradigm, a moral model can be developed that describes the relationship between relevant values and norms. However, when having developed a moralaspect model or system, we cannot apply it directly to specific situations. Besides the moral motivation, the economic, social, psychic and political motivations are setting people in motion. Real life phenomena are the result of the operation of all these relevant motivations. The moral force is just one of them. To find out the effects of morally motivated behavior we must know the interrelationship with the other forces. Only then we know what virtues and actions are effective in terms of human well-being.

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1.Introduction Everywhere people meet each other the problem of responsibility of one person to the other plays an important role. Where social interaction takes place humans interpret the relationship in terms of morally right or wrong. Apparently we all are gifted with the capacity of moral judgment or conscience. During our lives we use this conscience to pile up series of moral judgments about problematic situations we had to face. When we are confronted with a situation we recognize from earlier practices we use this stock to interpret the situation morally. Besides a cognitive aspect, these judgments also have an emotional aspect. This means that moral judgments also imply moral sentiments and moral resentments. Emotions set people in motion; in other words, people come into action, also when morally motivated. We expect from each other to account for our actions – to respond if others call us to account. This is the literal meaning of the word responsibility: respond to morally motivated questions. In simple societies the responsibility structure is rather transparent. Every group of people is characterized by a common understanding of the situation. That means that all members are more or less aware of how things work – have the same map of the world – including the principal values and norms and are inclined to accept the existing role and responsibility structure. Every member is expected to obey the rules and play the roles and if some unexpected things happen people start blaming the deviants for irresponsible behavior and are putting these people under moral pressure to adjust to the existing culture. In more complex societies, however, responsibility structures are not always specified well. This makes it difficult for people to monitor each other with respect to eventual deviant behavior. It is difficult to morally judge the behavior of others and our selves because of a lack of (moral) knowledge. This deficiency creates discretionary room for many morally imperfectly shaped actors to escape from their responsibilities. In general power and a lack of moral knowledge and moral skills give people room for an escape from responsibility. If people don’t have the right moral sentiments, they will remain passive at moments that require action. When analyzing the societal structure we must be aware of the driving forces that make our societies increasingly complex. These forces create a growing stock of (scientific) knowledge that is applied to our methods of production and...
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