Questions to ponder on responsibility

  1. Who are you and to whom are you responsible?
  2. What are your personal responsibilities during these times of COVID-19?
  3. Medical decision-making requires a coordinated effort of a patient, their family, their healthcare provider, their healthcare system, etc. How should we delineate each’s responsibilities? In times of extraordinary burden (e.g., end-of-life-care, pandemics), how/does each’s role change?
  4. “The word “responsibility”,” we are told by Turoldo and Barilan (2008) “appeared for the first time in 1787 in a text attributed to Alexander Hamilton, in reference to the government’s obligation to answer […] questions raised by the parliament.” To whom are the governments of the world responsible? How are they held to account?
  5. When a “leader” of a nation was asked “do you take responsibility?” for a lag in testing for COVID-19 of that nation’s residents, they answered, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances – and we were given rules, regulations, specifications – from a different time.” To what extent does historical happenstance and circumstance alleviate/compel the burdens of responsibility? Put differently, how ought we bear “the sins of the father”?
  6. Who is to blame for the empire (of liberty!) erected over the bodies of Native Americans and upon the backs of enslaved blacks? How is past injustice atoned?
  7. Today marks the 26th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in which over 800,000 Tutsis and those that tried to protect them were murdered, mostly with machetes. Documents reveal, 16 days before the attacks the United States government knew of an imminent “genocide” to be committed but did not intervene. Does the U.S. bear any culpability for failing to act on its intelligence? More broadly, do the more powerful (nations on earth) have a responsibility to help those less powerful?
  8. A general gives an order, a soldier pulls a trigger, a person dies. Who is responsible?
  9. Does culpability exist in the absence of free will? Are the coerced culpable?
  10. Whence comes the responsibility of parent(s) to child(ren)? When does it begin? When/Does it end?
  11. Does our species have a duty to reproduce?
  12. Is the earth humanity’s dominion? Must human beings be stewards of the realms they occupy, of the earth? Do other animals have obligation(s) to their environment?
  13. Are our cities designed responsibly?
  14. Many contracts contain a “force majeure” clause in which both parties are freed from liability/obligation under extraordinary circumstances (e.g., insurrection, epidemic, acts of the gods, etc.). Do you believe that our times have triggered these clauses?
  15. On the eve of the American Civil War, minister Theodore Parker claimed “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” What bends this moral universe? How/Can it be made to bend faster?
  16. When history is written, will it be said our times were just?