Sunday, May 03, 2009

Authority and Holding Responsible

There is currently a discussion going on at the Garden of Forking Paths blog about a hypocrite loses her moral standing to hold another responsible for his wrongdoing (where holding responsible means more than simply judging the act to be bad).

I am having trouble getting my head around idea that authority should have any deep importance in our practices of holding responsible. I have the intuitions about non-parents not having the authority to punish others' children and hypocrites not being able to hold others to their word in good faith. However, I'm not sure that the claim that authority is necessary for holding responsible is what follows from these intuitions. Or maybe the problem is just that I don't understand exactly how to understand what it means to appropriately "hold responsible" and "holding responsible" really is not what the hypocrite is doing. If that's the case, then what is the hypocrite doing when she appears to hold someone responsible for a bad deed she herself has done?

What is wrong with saying that anyone who recognizes another's act as wrong and engages in prototypical blaming behavior (holding attitudes and censuring) is holding the wrongdoer responsible?