When many people are involved in an activity, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint who is morally responsible for what, a phenomenon known as the ‘problem of many hands.’ This term is increasingly used to describe problems with attributing individual responsibility in collective settings in such diverse areas as public administration, corporate management, law and regulation, technological development and innovation, healthcare, and finance. This volume provides an in-depth philosophical analysis of this problem, examining the notion of moral responsibility and distinguishing between different normative meanings of responsibility, both backward-looking (accountability, blameworthiness, and liability) and forward-looking (obligation, virtue). Drawing on the relevant philosophical literature, the authors develop a coherent conceptualization of the problem of many hands, taking into account the relationship, and possible tension, between individual and collective responsibility. This systematic inquiry into the problem of many hands pertains to discussions about moral responsibility in a variety of applied settings.
Table of Contents
Introduction Ibo van de Poel and Lambèr Royakkers 1. Moral Responsibility Ibo van de Poel 2. The Problem of Many Hands Ibo van de Poel 3: A Formalisation of Moral Responsibility and the Problem of Many Hands Tiago de Lima and Lambèr Royakkers 4. Responsibility and the Problem of Many Hands in Networks Sjoerd D. Zwart 5. A Procedural Approach to Distributing Responsibility Neelke Doorn 6. Responsibility as a Virtue and the Problem of Many Hands Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist Conclusions: From Understanding to Avoiding the Problem of Many Hands Ibo van de Poel and Sjoerd D. Zwart
Ibo van de Poel is Anthoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor in Ethics and Technology at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
Lambèr Royakkers is Associate Professor in Ethics and Technology in the School of Innovation Sciences at Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands
Sjoerd D. Zwart is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Technology at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
"This book will be of use in its entirety to those who are concerned with practical issues of responsibility distribution in institutions, particularly institutions of a fairly technical nature." – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Ibo van de Poel, Lambèr Royakkers, and Sjoerd D. Zwart have assembled the most comprehensive treatment yet of the problem of many hands, which has confounded assessments of individual responsibility in contexts of joint action and diffuse causality. Not only do they cogently capture the nature of this problem, both descriptively and formally, but they offer three compelling solutions to it, which should be of political as well as philosophical interest." – Steven Vanderheiden, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA