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Thread: the notion of personal responsibility

  1. #1
    Registered Users Regular Rayne's Avatar
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    Default the notion of personal responsibility

    ive never been a fan of it and i dont really fancy how 'personal responsibility' is trotted about as a be all and end all justification for right wing economic ideals. but i dont think anyone except the most ardent fiscal conservatives believe that someone who is born into desolate circumstances and turns to crime does it purely out of a lack of personal responsibility or that a yuppie making seven figures on wall street achieved his success because he had personal responsibility dripping out of his ears. however, frequenting quora, i've found that a lot of people who do understand the need for government funded social programs still champion the concept of 'personal responsibility'.

    ...and that's been perplexing me. does the notion of personal responsibility really exist? while it is probably true that on a large scale, in reference to things like the trends of economic mobility, one cannot assign the entirety of the blame for their circumstances to the people involved. but on a socially microscopic level does the concept of personal responsibility hold true? if i forget to step out a cigarette on the woods and cause a fire is that because of a lack of personal responsibility? if i slack off and get a poor grade on a test does that mean i do not have enough personal responsibility?

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    Registered Users Regular Rayne's Avatar
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    i find it kind of strange that as a society we are often quick to assign blame to people for things which are trivial and which may not be their fault. if, say, a 'slow' kid doesnt get a joke, he is made fun of because of it even though, and i think most defenders of personal responsibility would agree that, intelligence for the most part is inherent and cannot be changed. it's possible that the reason 'personal responsibility' is so ubiquitous is because of a more extreme application of this sort of judgemental mentality. it also seems that we as a civilisation are forced, and perhaps even need, to believe in personal responsibility, else that would render our justice system, and indeed the very notion of 'justice', irredeemably immoral.

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    what about .. eyebrows God's Avatar
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    however, frequenting quora, i've found that a lot of people who do understand the need for government funded social programs still champion the concept of 'personal responsibility'.
    the hard-line conservative idea of personal responsibility is silly because it childishly underestimates the affect social conditions have on people's development, consciousness, and therefore actions. but the regulations of government assistance programs also count as "social conditions" -- that is, if we agree that people's decisions and courses of life are largely shaped by social forces beyond their control, the level of difficulty in obtaining assistance programs and the "strings" attached to them re: finding employment, jobs training, etc, of course count as those "social conditions." so if we might say someone could have been driven to needing government assistance because of a whole host of social factors beyond their individual control, the fact that government assistance is ostensibly easy to obtain and stay on may be another social factor that influences their decision making to stay on government assistance rather than trying to do whatever, eg skills training, education, etc, to find a job.

    like if society suddenly took the hard-line belief of "persona responsibility." many people would likely demonstrate more "personal responsibility" (taking maybe worse paying jobs than they would have otherwise, being more willing to move etc to find work, being willing to downgrade their lifestyles to more easily afford the essentials like food/housing because supplementary programs wouldnt be there, etc), because the expectation of 'personal responsibility' due to the lack of social programs would be another social factor influencing their thinking. whether this would actually cut down on the social ills associated with high-poverty, high government program-reliance communities is another matter.

    im not sure i explained this very well

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    what about .. eyebrows God's Avatar
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    the idea of 'personal responsibility' is so ubiquitous because it's easy to understand. "i go to work every day, why doesn't this black guy in the ghetto do the same. i didn't have kids until i was married, why are these poor single mothers not doing the same. they need to be more *PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE* like i was.'

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    Registered Users Regular Rayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by God View Post
    the hard-line conservative idea of personal responsibility is silly because it childishly underestimates the affect social conditions have on people's development, consciousness, and therefore actions. but the regulations of government assistance programs also count as "social conditions" -- that is, if we agree that people's decisions and courses of life are largely shaped by social forces beyond their control, the level of difficulty in obtaining assistance programs and the "strings" attached to them re: finding employment, jobs training, etc, of course count as those "social conditions." so if we might say someone could have been driven to needing government assistance because of a whole host of social factors beyond their individual control, the fact that government assistance is ostensibly easy to obtain and stay on may be another social factor that influences their decision making to stay on government assistance rather than trying to do whatever, eg skills training, education, etc, to find a job.

    like if society suddenly took the hard-line belief of "persona responsibility." many people would likely demonstrate more "personal responsibility" (taking maybe worse paying jobs than they would have otherwise, being more willing to move etc to find work, being willing to downgrade their lifestyles to more easily afford the essentials like food/housing because supplementary programs wouldnt be there, etc), because the expectation of 'personal responsibility' due to the lack of social programs would be another social factor influencing their thinking. whether this would actually cut down on the social ills associated with high-poverty, high government program-reliance communities is another matter.

    im not sure i explained this very well
    seems like you just said the conservative notion of personal responsibility is silly but then explained how that getting rid of government funded social programs and parading the idea of personal responsibility (which are both ostensibly conservative goals) would likely get people who 'dont have personal responsibility' ie poor people on welfare to get themselves out of that situation.... or am i reading it wrong.

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    Registered Users Regular Rayne's Avatar
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    nvm that i do get what youre saying. setting up extremely conservative policies would probably incentivise certain people to try and get out of poor economic circumstances but probably wouldnt eliminate the causes of those people being in those economic circumstances therefore the people who cannot or are unwilling to work at it are, because of the lack of a safety net, pretty much royally fucked. it's an interesting point but doesnt address my real question. does personal responsibility as an ideal hold any sort of merit?

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    princeso Kirby's Avatar
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    who needs social responsibility when I can get the government to tell me what to do

    Im serious

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rayne View Post
    nvm that i do get what youre saying. setting up extremely conservative policies would probably incentivise certain people to try and get out of poor economic circumstances but probably wouldnt eliminate the causes of those people being in those economic circumstances therefore the people who cannot or are unwilling to work at it are, because of the lack of a safety net, pretty much royally fucked. it's an interesting point but doesnt address my real question. does personal responsibility as an ideal hold any sort of merit?
    Well, it is related to your question but I don't think I linked it very well. I'll try to explain what I'm getting at:

    So, what is "personal responsibility?" People are basically extremely complex machines whose decisions are decided by various electrochemicalwhatever reactions in the brain; what else could it be, magic? So human action has to be in many respects very deterministic. To say entirely deterministic wouldn't be ridiculous. So actions are decided by two things: Incentives, and Past Experience. If you slack off a get a poor test grade it means:

    You valued your leisure time more than ensuring you'd get a better grade.
    Your past experiences informed you that even if you did rather poorly it wouldn't completely ruin your life (this may have been different if you were from a poor family only able to attend college on a competitive scholarship with rigorous renewal standards)
    Among any number of other things, for example: if your past experiences were such that you came to define your self worth in terms of having great academic performance, you would have studied harder; if you had serious family pressure to be a top academic performer and wanted to live up to that expectation, you would have studied harder; if this was a more important test, say a final instead of a regular exam with a smaller portion of your grade attached, you would have studied harder.

    Same with the cigarette in the woods. If your family's house in the woods burned down from a fire years ago, you would have made sure that cigarette was out; if you just watched a TV show on forest fires, you'd probably make sure that cigarette was out. Any number of other scenarios. If you didn't make sure it was out, probably the idea of a forest fire didn't occur to you. Does that have to do with "personal responsibility?" How were you supposed to will an idea into your head, if it wasn't there at the time? If it causes a fire this time, you can be sure the idea will be in your head next time you find yourself smoking in the woods. (Like, for example, the idea of financial success based on good academic performance probably doesn't even ENTER THE MIND of many poor children; how are they to will a foreign idea into their mind that was never instilled in them culturally?)

    So, people's actions in any given scenario are defined by what they consider their incentives to be in terms of how they react, and how their past experiences and knowledge informs them of the possible outcomes. But the way "society" responds to any number of those possible actions influences future actions. If you didn't put out that cigarette in the woods and people said: "Well, think about it -- it didn't even occur to you! How can you be at "fault" -- whatever that is!? It's okay, Rayne," maybe next time you found yourself smoking in the woods you still may be careless. If people said:" You were SMOKING in the WOODS, and didn't put the cigarette out!? What is wrong with you: your lack of responsibility may have killed people!" then the fact that they ascribed a lack of "responsibility" arbitrarily and perhaps philosophically WRONGLY to an event may make you act in a more "responsible" manner in the future, and produce more socially positive results.

    You bring up the justice system, and I think that's a good way to illustrate the point. If we say people's lives are ENTIRELY deterministic, then if someone murders someone it isn't their "fault." So you may think they shouldn't be punished for something that isn't their fault. But the outcomes of other people who have acted in certain situations will INFORM other people in their actions in similar situations. The fact that some guy some time ago was punished for committing an action that may not, metaphysically, have been his FAULT in a manner as if it WAS his fault, well that becomes a new piece of information that a person's brain-machine feeds through in order to make a deterministic 'decision' on how that person is going to act. Pretending "responsibility" exists can create a new set of social conditions that guide people towards behavior more socially positive.

  9. #9
    Registered Users Regular Rayne's Avatar
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    i wholeheartedly agree. i was thinking along the same lines and you put the abstract thoughts floating about in my head into concrete terms pretty well.

    the dilemma however is, how do you incentivise people into behaving better socially while still remaining true to the ideal that actions are for the most part deterministic? going along with the prison example, to get the entire justice system to focus more, or even exclusively, on rehabilitation instead of punishment (as it probably should) would require a shift in societal consciousness to accept the fact that human action IS deterministic, which would presumably lower the incentive for a person to NOT commit crime. in general to enable social institutions to 'treat' people in accordance with the fact that human action is deterministic would require that societal expectations to 'fall in line' with that particular institution be lowered. in a hypothetical 'utopian' society this wouldnt be a problem as there would exist other social factors that would collectively incentivise people to maintain social decorum but 'on the road' to such a society how would you even start in turning around, say, the sorry state of the prison system in the united states?

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    In reverie, I felt you holding me. Dogar The Brave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ripdo
    tlrd
    .

    Your an absolutely wonderful man, any girl that is yours is lucky and I know that from personal experience. ~KMT

  11. #11
    what about .. eyebrows God's Avatar
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    hahahaha

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rayne View Post
    i wholeheartedly agree. i was thinking along the same lines and you put the abstract thoughts floating about in my head into concrete terms pretty well.

    the dilemma however is, how do you incentivise people into behaving better socially while still remaining true to the ideal that actions are for the most part deterministic? going along with the prison example, to get the entire justice system to focus more, or even exclusively, on rehabilitation instead of punishment (as it probably should) would require a shift in societal consciousness to accept the fact that human action IS deterministic, which would presumably lower the incentive for a person to NOT commit crime. in general to enable social institutions to 'treat' people in accordance with the fact that human action is deterministic would require that societal expectations to 'fall in line' with that particular institution be lowered. in a hypothetical 'utopian' society this wouldnt be a problem as there would exist other social factors that would collectively incentivise people to maintain social decorum but 'on the road' to such a society how would you even start in turning around, say, the sorry state of the prison system in the united states?
    i dont think shifting the prison system towards a goal of rehabilitation requires any sort of philosophical awakening of a people. plenty of countries do it. it works. you dont go out to people and say "prison should focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment because metaphysically speaking the idea of personal responsibility .....", you say "prison should focus on rehabilitation because less prisoners will come out as recidivists, society will have less crime, and everyone will be materially better off." being locked up in prison for a number of years basically losing all that time to do anything you actually wanted to do with your life is still an incentive not to break laws even without the prison system being rife with corrupt guards, rape, gang violence and poor and overcrowded facilities.

  13. #13
    In reverie, I felt you holding me. Dogar The Brave's Avatar
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    Download AOE 2 Expansion and start playing.

    Your an absolutely wonderful man, any girl that is yours is lucky and I know that from personal experience. ~KMT

  14. #14
    what about .. eyebrows God's Avatar
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    later

    like, next week

  15. #15
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    You promise?

    Your an absolutely wonderful man, any girl that is yours is lucky and I know that from personal experience. ~KMT

  16. #16
    what about .. eyebrows God's Avatar
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    no

    but i do promise ill do it at least when the semesters over

  17. #17
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    How will you practice enough to fend off me!!!!

    Your an absolutely wonderful man, any girl that is yours is lucky and I know that from personal experience. ~KMT

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