I’ve spend a super goodly amount of time considering this view, and challenging it, and rethinking it, and testing it against diverse circumstances and other ideas, and so far it’s always held true. And the more it holds true, the more it supports my other ideas about people.
So I cling to my view of human responsibility pretty strongly, and it supports and flavours pretty much every idea I have about all human beings and everything they do.
Now, I understand that many people have complex ideas about responsibility and culpability, and stuff which causes other stuff. However, my ideas about human responsibility and culpability are very, very simple. So for any productive discussion or debate I really need at the very least a mutual understanding of what I think ‘responsibility’ means and how I apply it to human beings.
Note that I don’t require people to agree, just to understand where I’m coming from.
This post is for my convenience so I can link to a clear explanation of my view of human responsibility. So all jokes about ‘blaming society‘ aside, this is a summary of my view:
- What any individual does or doesn’t do is entirely and solely their own responsibility.
And for the mutual understanding and convenience of my discussion partners (and all you other good people who like to read my drivel), here’s a more fleshed-out description.
Human Beings – Choices And Responsibility
Assuming reasonable degrees of emotional and intellectual brain function, I believe that
- Every individual is totally and solely responsible for their every choice and action.
- Other people are totally and solely responsible for their choices and actions.
- No individual can ever force another to contravene their own choices.
For illustrative purposes, here is an extreme (and only partly imaginary) example.
Extreme And Only Partly Imaginary ExampleImagine that Person A is holding a gun to my head and telling me to walk somewhere.
Imagine that I choose instead to stand still and remain where I am.
- I have full and sole control over my choice to walk.
- Person A has zero control over my choice to walk.
- The gun is solely under Person A’s jurisdiction.
- I have zero control over what happens with that gun.
- My choices and Person A’s choices operate independently of each other.
- Person A transgressed my consent and is therefore untrustworthy.
- I prioritise my own well-being over pleasing Person A.
Because Person A has zero control over my choice to walk, the only way Person A can get me to walk is to persuade me to change my mind and choose to walk. So to that end, Person A chooses to threaten me with the gun which they do control, to encourage me to make a choice which is outside Person A’s control.
Now it’s true that Person A can choose to pull the trigger at any time and shoot me dead. Whilst my fear of being shot and desire to remain alive might coerce me to change my standing-still choice into a walking choice, Person A’s choice to either pull the trigger or leave it alone can be entirely independent of my actions.
Person A could tell me they will leave the trigger untouched if I walk, and Person A could be lying. The validity of what Person A chooses to say and do is also entirely outside my jurisdiction and control.
- If I stand still, Person A could still choose to leave the trigger untouched.
- If I walk as Person A directs, Person A could still shoot me dead.
- If Person A shoots me dead or drags me anywhere, I still won’t be walking.
Conclusion – Person A can’t force me to do shit.
I didn’t make Person A do anything, and even if I tried I couldn’t.
Even though the possible consequences of standing still represent a threat to me, that threat exists regardless of what choice I make. So I can still choose to stand still. And no matter how many guns are pointed at me or how many ways my life is threatened, the only person who can change my choice is me. And Person A can still pull that trigger and shoot me dead at any time whether I do as Person A directs or not.
- But shooting me did not make me walk when I chose to stand still.
Ultimately, the only one who can decide to pull the trigger or leave it alone is Person A, and the only one who can decide whether I walk or stand still is me.
So Person A will never be able to force me to do shit, only coerce. And whether Person A succeeds in coercing me or not, the walking happens only when I choose to walk.
ConclusionosityThe way I see it, there is no such thing as “having no choice”. Sure, the choices available may be limited, uncomfortable, or undesirable, but they are still choices.
No matter who or what you blame or credit for what you do or don’t do:
- Choices are always available.
- People only do what they choose to do.
- Force cannot compel, only coerce.
- Every individual choice and action is always entirely and solely that person’s responsibility.
- Other people’s choices and actions are always entirely and solely their responsibility.
It really is that simple.