In my opinion, being responsible means acknowledging the consequences of your actions or choices and being ready to handle them. This is a very broad definition, and numerous concessions must be made, but this is the general guideline for defining responsibility in my book. In this essay, I will mention the concessions that I think must be mentioned while defining this term, but I do not believe that I can cover all the possible variations and cases.
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First of all, defining the limits of responsibility is a rather complex process due to the fact that the phenomenon has at least two layers: the legal and the moral one. Definitely, the law provides the general guidelines, but the notion of moral responsibility is beyond its expertise. I suppose that the limits of moral responsibility are for every person to define; however, one should also be ready to be held responsible for this choice. For example, despite the efforts of my relatives, I do not consider charity to be my responsibility, and I am ready to deal with the consequences that are reflected in the disapproval of the charity advocates from my environment. Of course, I respect the people who are willing to help others; in my opinion, charity demonstrates their kindness and sympathy, not the idea that they are responsible for every life on the Earth.
Indeed, I suppose, there should be a limit to a person’s responsibility. One of the limiting factors includes the possibilities or opportunities of a person. To be held responsible for an action, a person must have acted (or stayed inactive) out of the free will. The idea of free will is another controversial issue; I suppose that it includes the opportunity of making an informed decision in a situation that does not rule out the possibility of choice. This is more or less how free will is defined by the law, and it appears fair (Sandel 91-93). Obviously, this concession should be also applied to moral responsibility, even though the general public rarely has the time and desire to take into account all the aspects of a case.
Another difficulty of defining responsibility is concerned with the fact that the consequences of one’s actions are not always visible. It seems to me that the understanding of responsibility comes with the understanding of the impact that you have on the environment and yourself. This is why it is easy to feel responsible for your work, studies or your family; the results of being irresponsible in this case are visible immediately and are usually harmful to oneself. Similarly, it is easy to find those responsible for a breach of the law. It is much more difficult to find oneself responsible, for example, for the impact you have on the environment by failing to dispose of waste in a proper way. The result is not immediate and, in fact, appears to be most insignificant.
Indeed, even though the environment is protected by the law, people keep demonstrating a very irresponsible attitude to the issue, and, in my opinion, the reason for that consists of the challenge of perceiving the responsibility that is not backed up by an immediate result. An outstanding illustration of this problem is the Volkswagen emission scandal: for years, the company’s cars emitted dangerous gases in larger amounts than was allowed (Russell et al. par. 1-2). It appears to me that such a situation would not have occurred, for example, with low-quality materials, since the consequences of such a decision are obvious and immediate; but in the case of environmental protection realizing the responsibility is, unfortunately, much more difficult.
To conclude, I would say that I do not think that I have any kind of authority on responsibility. This is a complex notion, and I would not be surprised if I was considered irresponsible by other people. Still, I try to face the consequences of my actions and choices, and I find the responsibility for my relatives and friends especially important.
Russell, Karl, et al. “How Volkswagen Got Away With Diesel Deception.” The New York Times. 2015. Web.
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Sandel, Michael J. Justice. New York, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Print.