What in the world is collective responsibility?

Alberto Giubilini*, Neil Levy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
87 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper we analyse the notion of collective responsibility and the criteria for its application to different types of groups. We argue that most of the ways in which the notion of collective responsibility has been attributed to different types of groups actually refer to a form of responsibility that is not genuinely collective, but that boils down to some form of individual responsibility. We identify an intrinsically collective kind of responsibility and argue that it can be attributed to only one kind of group. We begin by setting two necessary and sufficient conditions for attribution of genuinely collective moral responsibility, asking whether these two conditions are satisfied in the case of different types of groups that have been taken to be bearers of moral responsibility: organized groups, groups with internal bonds of solidarity, groups that program individuals to act in a certain way, random collections of individuals, and individuals engaging in joint actions. Contrary to what various authors have maintained, we argue that only in the case of individuals engaging in joint actions is attribution of a genuinely collective form of moral responsibility warranted, i.e. only groups engaging in joint action satisfy the two conditions for attribution of genuinely collective moral responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-217
Number of pages27
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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