“The Epistemology of Responsibility in Agency-Stultifying Situations”(PID2022-139226NB-I00): 2023–2026.
Funded by the Spanish Ministry for Science & Innovation and the European Union.
The project, which is based at the Valencia Philosophy Lab of the Philosophy Department, University of Valencia (UV), includes funding for a PhD scholarship (FPI). See the project summary below.
“Equipo de Investigación”:
Chon Tejedor (UV) and Sergi Rosell (UV) (co-Principal Investigators).
Josep E. Corbí (UV) and Jesús Vega Encabo (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid).
Further research project members:
Maria Alvarez (King’s College London)
Carla Bagnoli (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia)
Chris Bennett (University of Sheffield)
José Medina (Northwestern University)
Cristina Lafont (Northwestern University)
Virginia Ballesteros (UV)
Christian Carbonell Palasí (UV)
Javier Castellote Lillo (UV)
The project explores the type of individual responsibility that arises in situations characterised by the following four features:
(a) The combined behaviour of numerous individuals causes significant cumulative harm.
(b) The behaviour of any one individual, in and of itself, does not cause this cumulative harm, nor can it have a significant impact on it.
(c) Individuals do not intend the cumulative harm, even though they understand and expect it to result from the combined behaviour of numerous individuals – behaviour such as their own.
(d) Abstaining from behaving in this way is costly for the individual.
Situations meeting criteria (a) to (d) cripple our capacity to articulate the epistemic resources by virtue of which we could determine what sort of individual responses – and responsibilities – are appropriate in them. This, in turn, hampers any potential behavioural change at the individual level: since intentions are not obviously problematic – as per (c) – and individual behaviour has no significant impact on the problem – as per (b), we become epistemically unable to access and articulate clear reasons for changing our behaviour. This lack of epistemic resources, together with the fact that behavioural change is costly – as per (d), means that individual behaviour remains unchanged. Situations meeting criteria (a) to (d) thus have a stultifying effect on our agency. To capture this idea, we will refer to any situation meeting these four criteria as an agency-stultifying situation.
Examples of situations meeting these criteria are extraordinarily commonplace. In fact, we would go as far as to suggest that they are one of the most common type of ethical situation we regularly find ourselves in, as individuals. Examples include:
- Human generated climate change.
- The participation in markets that generate cumulative harm.
- Responding with passivity and silence to community and political terror (for instance, from terrorist groups, from the Mafia, or in totalitarian regimes).
- Responding with passivity and silence to systematic bullying or discrimination in intercultural exchanges or in institutional settings, as a result of prejudice relating to intersectional markers such as gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, ability, etc.
- Participating in bureaucratic mechanisms that produce grave harm, such as in the case of the Holocaust.
- Participating in the spread of information through global communication networks, such as social media, that cause cumulative harm.
The project has two major aims.
The first is to develop a notion of individual responsibility capable of addressing the challenge of agency-stultifying situations. One possible candidate for this is that of conditioned responsibility. The conditioned responsibility model advances that some individual responsibilities (what one owes others) and some individual dues (what others owe one) arise directly in response to the conditions in which one finds oneself operating, independently of one’s intentions or of the consequences of one’s individual behaviour.
The second is to develop a dedicated non-generalist epistemology specifically designed to address the question of individual conditioned responsibility in agency-stultifying situations. This epistemology will need to navigate a series of challenges stemming from the first-person third-person asymmetry, the possibility of self-deception and the problem of ignorance.
PREVIOUS PROJECTS LED
- “Intercultural Understanding, Belonging and Value: Wittgensteinian Approaches.” (PGC2018-093982-B-I00): 2019–2022. Principal Investigator: Chon Tejedor (University of Valencia).
- “The Ethics of Cognition.” (2013) Principal Investigator: Chon Tejedor (University of Oxford). Funded by a John Fell Oxford University Press award.
PARTICIPATION IN FURTHER PROJECTS
Member of the Working Teams (“equipos de trabajo”) of three Spanish Ministry funded research projects based at the University of Valencia:
- “Self-Knowledge, Moral Responsibility and Authenticity.” (FFI2016-75323-P). 2017–2019. Principal Investigators: Josep Corbí and Carlos Moya (University of Valencia). Funded by: Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad.
- “Cultura y religión: Wittgenstein y la contrailustración” (FFI 2008-00866). 2009 – 2011. Principal Investigator: Vicente Sanfélix (University of Valencia). Funded by: Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia.
- “Cultura y civilización. El contexto intelectual de la constitución de la filosofía del primer Wittgenstein.” (HUM2005-04665/FISO 2008). 2005 – 2008. Principal Investigator: Vicente Sanfélix (University of Valencia). Funded by: Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia.
Member of the following projects funded by University of Valencia:
- “Humanidades ecológicas” (PIDHECO) (UV-SFPIE PIEE-2736216). 2023–2024. Principal Investigator: Luis Arenas Llopis (University of Valencia).
- “ConcepMu: Conceptos filosóficos, estéticos, etico-políticos y jurídicos de las mujeres” (UV-INV-AE19-1212452). 2020–2021. Principal Investigator: Elena Cantarino Suñer (University of Valencia).
Tejedor also participated in the following AHRC-funded project:
- “The Tractatus and its History.” 2003 – 2006. Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), United Kingdom. Principal Investigators: Peter Sullivan (University of Stirling) & Michael Potter (University of Cambridge), United Kingdom