Responsibility is a complex and ambiguous concept the interpretation of which has been the object of numerous debates throughout the centuries. Even though philosophers and analysts have made a lot of effort to work out a framework that would define this notion, every person still has an individual approach to understanding responsibility.
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The most general interpretation of the term is provided by Barbara Darling-Smith, a professor of religion at Wheaton College, who has made a significant contribution to the examination of this problem. According to the professor, responsibility is a “duty, task, or undertaking for which we are accountable or answerable” (Darling-Smith 182). I shall admit that the relevant definition coincides completely with my vision of responsibility.
In the meantime, I shall necessarily note that I believe it critical to differentiate between the internal and the external types of responsibilities. Whereas the latter is normally imposed by the social obligations and the common norms, the former is defined individually, basing on personal ethical, and moral principles. Therefore, I assume that the way one indicates the scope of internal responsibilities can provide a vivid characteristic of his or her personality.
Professor Darling-Smith provides a more diverse classification of responsibility’s types. Hence, according to her, one should, likewise, point out corporate, ecological, and other responsibilities (Darling-Smith 152). However, I suppose that all these minor types can be referred to as one of the larger groups: internal or external responsibilities.
Trying to define the spectrum of my responsibilities, I shall begin with my immediate environment. Thus, I essentially feel responsible for my family and friends. Globally speaking, I have a sense of responsibility for all the people that I contact, to a larger or greater extent. Bearing this responsibility resides in adjusting my behavior following the needs and the interests of the people I am down to; therefore, in this case, I would rather speak about the internal responsibility that I voluntarily accept. As to my formal or external responsibilities, they are independently defined by the social environment within which I live. Hence, I have a series of undertakings as a student, as a driver, and so on.
Defining the scope of my responsibilities beyond my immediate circle is a much more challenging task. If being asked whether I consider myself to be in charge of nature and the planet, in general, I would naturally give an affirmative response. However, a thorough reflection on this subject would make me admit that my sense of responsibility for these issues does not have any physical outcomes. In other words, my responsibility for the things that do not belong to the immediate environment is, unfortunately, limited to the ideas – I perform little activity to fulfill my duties in this sphere. In the meantime, I realize that I shall work on this drawback and try to transform my sense of responsibility into particular actions.
In conclusion, I shall point out two aspects that I believe to be critical while speculating on responsibility. First of all, the scope of duties that a person defines internally provides an explicit characteristic of his or her morality. Secondly, a sense of responsibility should necessarily have some practical results. In other words, the principal aim of a responsible person is not only to state that he or he is in charge of something but to find ways to fulfill this duty.
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Darling-Smith, Barbara. Responsibility, Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2007. Print.