The Responsible Subject in the Global Age
Science and engineering ethics 2010 Sep; 16(3): 447-61
The first thesis of this article is that the concept of responsibility takes on an unprecedented meaning in the twentieth century resulting from the emergence of a new dimension of the other: to be responsible comes to mean not just to account for oneself in relation to the other, but also to take the other into account, to take care of the other-what I call responsibility towards (the other). The main reason for this change consists in the emergence of global risks and the necessity, as underlined by Hans Jonas, to be responsible for the destiny of the world and future generations. The problem, as explored in the article's second thesis, is that this implies the existence of a subject who is capable of responsibility. Jonas's insights on this point are insufficient, since he only recognizes duty as the fundament for his ethics of responsibility and thus neglects the problem of motivation. This is a particularly crucial problem today as we are witnessing the presence of a pathological subject, characterized by a split in his faculties (between doing and imagining, knowing and feeling). To underline this fact, this article makes use of Günther Anders's reflections, which provide a psycho-anthropological analysis of the subject, showing his pathologies and the necessity, from a moral perspective, to overcome his scission. Finally, this author suggests, as the article's third thesis, that this overcoming is the necessary fundament for the perception of risk, which in turn reinstates the subject's perception of his own vulnerability. Responsibility thus finds a motivation, which is neither altruistic nor duty-centred, in the awareness of our own vulnerability and the bond with the destiny of humankind as a whole.
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