Collective Moral Agency and Self-Induced Moral Incapacity

Philosophical Explorations:1-22 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Collective moral agents can cause their own moral incapacity. If an agent is morally incapacitated, then the agent is exempted from responsibility. Due to self-induced moral incapacity, corporate responsibility gaps resurface. To solve this problem, I first set out and defend a minimalist account of moral competence for group agents. After setting out how a collective agent can cause its own moral incapacity, I argue that self-induced temporary exempting conditions do not free an agent from diachronic responsibility once the agent regains its moral faculties. For collective agents, any exempting condition is potentially temporary due to the ‘malleability’ of their constitution. Therefore, in cases of self-induced moral incapacity and subsequent wrongdoing, unlike individuals, every collective agent can be (made) morally responsible for its actions even though it did not qualify as a moral agent at the time of wrongdoing. Hence, this is no reason for skepticism concerning corporate responsibility.

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Niels de Haan
University of Vienna

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