Annals of Ethics
Online ISSN : 2434-4699
Being a responsible agent
Heidegger’s insight into our moral responsibility
Hiroshi Takai
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2017 Volume 66 Pages 143-


    This study elucidates the argument which Martin Heidegger developed in his Being and TimeSein und Zeit)about responsibility. His interest is focused on how far we have to take responsibility for our actions. To forecast this problem, one might think that, rationality or rational deliberation defines its scope. But Heidegger didn’t think that “rationality” provides us a final solution to the problem about responsibility. Heidegger’s evaluation is concerned with the famous distinction between authenticity and inauthenticity, so this study interprets Heidegger’s argument about this distinction as one about responsibility.
    Heidegger identifies inauthenticity with “the They”(das Man)as our everyday mode of being and analyses our concept of responsibility and our judgments about our actions in terms of this concept. Heidegger introduces the concept of “the They” as “the-one”, who nobody is but everyone is. And according to Heidegger, “the They” defines what we have to do and what we must not do. So we can say that this concept represents the rationality in a society. Actually, we can blame someone, saying “one ordinarily doesn’t do so” or “rational agent should do this.” In doing so, we resort to “the They” or anonymous ratio nality. But following this way of thinking, one cannot blame the other’s action which even unintentionally hurt someone heavily, if only he/she deliberates rationally as a mature agent would do. Heidegger considers this conclusion odd.
    In contrast to an inauthentic person, authentic person is an agent who is very responsible, Heidegger says. To be become authentic, one must become aware of one’s own weaknesses. These weaknesses which he refers to as our “lacking” concern our omissions. We can never do something unless at the same time we forgo something else. Heidegger’s responsible agent is aware of his/her own weakness, and doing so, he/she is prepared for regretting own actions and for thinking that he/she should have taken the other action he/she never knew. Most importantly, this regret should go beyond the scope of rational deliberation. Responsible agent is prepared to take responsibility which “the They” rationally doesn’t require. This is Heidegger’s conclusion.

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© 2017 The Japanese Society for Ethics
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