Friday, April 04, 2008

A Book by Fletcher and Ohlin and Some Thoughts on Collective Guilt and Personal Responsibility

In a very interesting new book, titled Defending Humanity, George Fletcher (Columbia University) and Jens Ohlin (soon at Cornell University) explore the international law of war. Last week an event was held at Columbia Law School in honor of the book's release.

For me, the most interesting of the many speakers was philosopher Jeff McMahan, who focused on the eighth and last chapter of the book. In that chapter, which points to the collective dimension of the law and the morality of war, Fletcher and Ohlin claim that war crimes are collectivist in nature and that guilt for such crimes is collective. McMahan contended that conceptualizing the guilt for war crimes, most often committed by specific officials or army units, in terms of collective guilt has the precarious effect of mitigating the guilt of the individuals that actually committed the crime. McMahan pointed out that under domestic criminal law the killer of one person bears the guilt for his actions, while under international criminal law the guilt for the crimes of the military unit that kills thousands is attributed to the collective in whose name those actually doing the killing act. According to McMahan, if the collective approach leads to such mitigation, it must be wrong.

It seems to me that distinguishing between responsibility and guilt may have helped dispel this impasse (a distinction Fletcher first explored in his Storrs lectures and also analyzed in Defending Humanity). Responsibility is a matter of action – one cannot be guilty for that which one did not do or authorize. Guilt, in contrast, is a relational concept. It attaches as a matter of status, identity, position, vicinity etc. Responsibility is a function of what one does, while guilt (or moral taint or moral pollution) is in many cases a function of who one is. In this sense one may share in the collective guilt for the acts committed by others in one's name or in the name of one's community without bearing the responsibility.

Guilt and responsibility function differently in moral space. A responsible party deserves punishment and should feel remorse. A guilty party (in the sense defined above) should feel shame but does not deserve individualized punishment. Therefore, while the army general that ordered the war crime and the soldiers that committed it are responsible, the nation in whose name they acted – and the members of that nation only – bear the collective guilt. The victims are entitled to blame the actual perpetrators but may only resent the nation in whose name the perpetrators acted.
posted by Ori Herstein

15 comments:

Garth Sullivan said...

i think the distinction you are trying to draw is guilt/responsibility on the one hand and commission of a crime on the other.

Ori Herstein said...

I thought of guilt and responsibility as two distinct moral terms. The commission of a crime is, well, a legal term. It can be morally good or morally bad. So no, that is not the distinction I was trying to draw.

egarber said...

Therefore, while the army general that ordered the war crime and the soldiers that committed it are responsible, the nation in whose name they acted – and the members of that nation only – bear the collective guilt.

Broadening this beyond law a bit, let me throw out some hypotheticals:

1. Suppose a police chief coerces an officer into abusing a suspect. Does the municipality bear collective guilt, even though the actions are against the law?

2. If a teacher has sex with an under-age student, does the school system bear collective guilt, even though it's a clear violation of the rules?

3. If a lawyer fails to properly apply discovery rules, does the profession at large bear collective guilt?

4. Is a company that requires sexual harassment training collectively guilty if an employee assualts a female worker?

In each of these instances, as well as within our nation's laws of war, there are formal rules banning the offending behavior. That makes it all the more weird to me that guilt is collective -- the only collective voice on the matter is a clear statement (via rules) that such behavior is *not* acceptable.

Ori Herstein said...

Dear Egarber,

I think your counterexamples miss the mark. First, not all collectives function in the same way. The relationship between an individual and his or her nation or family is often different than one’s relation to one’s municipality or broadly defined profession. Second, the hypnosis is that going to war is a collective act. Your examples do not include any act that can be reasonably viewed as collective, with the possible exception of the police abuse of power example.

Fletcher and Ohlin use the sentiment of shame as an indication to a collective act. This, I think, is an imperfect but not bad indicator in many cases. As an American I am ashamed, and defiantly should be ashamed, in Abu Garev. As an Israeli I am ashamed in certain injustices done to Palestinian civilians. I am not ashamed if someone in the “Dorf on Law” community, which I am a part of, writes something silly (not that this ever happens). The place the blog community has in forming me into who I am functions differently than my nationality; one implicates me in certain instances, the other does not.

egarber said...

Second, the hypnosis is that going to war is a collective act. Your examples do not include any act that can be reasonably viewed as collective, with the possible exception of the police abuse of power example.

What makes going to war uniquely "collective", as opposed to setting up an education system or running a company? In all cases, individuals are part of a larger effort. Obviously, the offenses are greater in war, but your line for when collective guilt kicks in (if that's what you mean) seems arbitrary to me.

In fact, since people have more direct control (arguably) in some of my examples (politics is local), wouldn't that make them more complicit in violations -- and hence more collectively guilty?

I understand the angle on shame. But there's no bright line for when it kicks in. For example, it seems to me very possible that a citizen in a small town might feel heavy shame if discrimination runs rampant against minorities in her town. Or if I work at a company that pollutes rivers, am I not likely to feel shame?

Carl said...

Guilt and responsibility function differently in moral space. A responsible party deserves punishment and should feel remorse. A guilty party (in the sense defined above) should feel shame but does not deserve individualized punishment.

While you are certainly free to define guilt however you want, I think it's a major affront to ordinary language to distinguish it from the appropriateness of feeling remorse for what we've done (or failed to do).

This is not to say, of course, that guilt isn't closely associated with shame as you say, as well. If fact, I think it's all but impossible to distinguish guilt, shame, and remorse in practice, and this is the point of my post.

By defining responsibility in the text quoted above in terms of the appropriateness of feeling remorse, you seem to be undermining the very distinction you were trying to draw in the first place.

Responsibility, as you rightly claim, is a matter of action, or what we ought to do. (I think it's broader than you realize here - you can be responsible for good as well as evil actions.) But the question of whether we are responsible for some action is wholly distinct from the question of how we ought to feel about it (i.e. whether we should feel guilty or proud, etc. for having done (or not done) it.), and both questions are distinct from the issue of whether we ought to be punished (or praised) for it.

Once we have these three distinctions firmly in mind, however, we can explain our differing intuitions about collective guilt and individual responsibility without running roughshod over things like the commonsense idea that the murderer ought to feel guilty about his crime. This is because what we ought to feel about some action has no implications for whether we are responsible for it or whether we ought to be punished for it. Each of these questions can (and probably ought to) be addressed separately.

Carl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ori Herstein said...

Carl,

While much of what you say is right, I do not see why you think I define responsibility in terms of feeling. I simply pointed out the feeling that seems appropriate to have if one is morally responsible. That does not a definition make.

Carl said...

While much of what you say is right, I do not see why you think I define responsibility in terms of feeling. I simply pointed out the feeling that seems appropriate to have if one is morally responsible. That does not a definition make.

You said:

A responsible party deserves punishment and should feel remorse.

I agree that calling this a definition was a sloppy use of language. What I was objecting to was the suggestion that we can assume without more that a responsible party deserves or should feel anything. From the text I quote above, I got the impression that you believe as a conceptual matter that there is some necessary link between these ideas. Whether it's appropriate to call this link a definition or some other conceptual or a priori relationship is not especially important.

My point was that if we carefully distinguish the questions of responsibility, punishment, and blame (or feeling), we can explain the phenomenon identified by this McMahan without having to redefine guilt as something other than some feeling we ought to have when we do something wrong.

My sense was that you began to blur these distinctions in the text I quoted and started drawing a conceptual rather than a normative link between responsibility, punishment, and remorse that then led you, apparently, to make a dubious distinction between remorse and guilt/shame.

I think the gist of my disagreement with your original post is that while we agree that we ought to distinguish between responsibility and guilt, we disagree about what this distinction amounts to. For you, it seems from the text I quoted to be a distinction between the types of feelings they ought to produce in us - remorse or shame. For me, it's a distinction between the kinds of responses they elicit from us - action or feeling. I thought at first that you were making the distinction I favored, but from the text I quoted, I got the impression that you were talking primarily about feelings. I wasn't sure if this was a slip or whether it represented your considered view on the matter and the point of my post was to highlight the difference.

If you agree that guilty parties ought, at times, to feel remorse rather than shame then we are in general agreement. Because you seemed to associate feeling remorse with being responsible at the conceptual level and because you seemed to want to draw a hard and fast dichotomy between responsibility and guilt (which I adamantly reject), it seems to follow from your post that you'd have to deny conceptually that responsible parties should ever feel guilt, since you seem to view these as mutually exclusive categories. But it is precisely this mutual exclusivity of responsibility and guilt that I found objectionable in your post. They aren't mutually exclusive - you can both be responsible for some action and guilty for it. And since guilt is also colloquially used in the sense of "shame," you can also be guilty about some action you are not responsible for. And because whether you ought to feel guilty about some action is a distinct question from whether you should be punished for it, we don't have to worry about the legal implications of the moral guilt we ought to feel about war crimes committed in our names.

路傑 said...

免費A片, ut聊天室, AV女優, 美女視訊, 免費成人影片, 成人論壇, 情色交友, 免費AV, 線上a片, 日本美女寫真集, 同志聊天室, 聊天室交友, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 色情網站, 辣妹視訊, 美女交友, 微風成人區, 色美媚部落格, 色情影片, 成人影片, 成人網站, 免費A片, 上班族聊天室, A片,H漫, 18成人, a漫, av dvd, 一夜情聊天室, 微風成人, 成人圖片, 成人漫畫, 情色網, 日本A片, 免費A片下載, 性愛, 成人交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 嘟嘟成人網, 成人貼圖, 成人電影, 成人, 中部人聊天室, 080中部人聊天室, 成人貼圖, 成人小說, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人遊戲, 微風成人, 愛情公寓, 成人電影, A片, 情色, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 做愛, 成人遊戲, 成人影城, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 寄情築園小遊戲, 色情遊戲, 成人網站, 麗的色遊戲, 色情網站, 成人論壇, 情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 言情小說, 愛情小說, 色情A片, 情色論壇, 自拍, 癡漢, , 俱樂部, 豆豆聊天室, 聊天室, 色情影片, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊交友90739 情人視訊網影音視訊聊天室 免費視訊聊天室 視訊聊天 視訊交友 美女視訊 視訊美女 視訊 免費視訊 免費視訊聊天 視訊聊天室 辣妹視訊 一夜情 色情a片 aio交友愛情館 情色電影 情色視訊 色情遊戲 色情 情色小說 一葉情貼圖片區 色情小說 色情聊天室 情色交友 成人論壇 成人網站 色情網站 情色論壇 小高聊天室 女同志聊天室 6K聊天室 080苗栗人聊天室 080聊天室 聊天室尋夢園 UT男同志聊天室 男同志聊天室 尋夢園聊天室 UT聊天室 聊天室 豆豆聊天室 A片 成人電影 成人貼圖 嘟嘟成人網 美女交友 本土自拍 成人交友 成人影片http://ssff01.3b8mm.com/

kutyhgvd said...

I am so happy to get some hero gold and the hero online gold is given by my close friend who tells me that the hero online money is the basis to enter into the game. Therefore, I should buy hero gold with the spare money and I gain some hero money from other players.

. said...

酒店喝酒,禮服店,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,制服店,便服店,鋼琴酒吧,兼差,酒店兼差,酒店打工,伴唱小姐,暑假打工,酒店上班,日式酒店,舞廳,ktv酒店,酒店,酒店公關,酒店小姐,理容院,日領,龍亨,學生兼差,酒店兼差,酒店上班,酒店打工,禮服酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,經紀 彩色爆米花,經紀人 彩色爆米花,酒店傳播,酒店經紀 彩色爆米花,爆米花,童裝,童裝拍賣,童裝大盤,童裝寄賣,童裝批貨,酒店,酒店,童裝切貨,酒店,GAP童裝,酒店,酒店 ,禮服店 , 酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,招待所,

wsty said...

www.eshooes.com .
www.pumafr.com.
www.myshoess.com.
[url=http://www.pumafr.com]puma shoes[/url]
[url=http://www.eshooes.com]chaussures puma[/url]
[url=http://www.myshoess.com]nike air max ltd[/url]

酒店經紀ㄚ君姐姐 said...

,,姐.,便服/,,

freefun0616 said...

酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店經紀, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店工作, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀,,