In this lively and accessible book, Matt Matravers considers the role of responsibility in politics, morality and the law.
In recent years, responsibility has taken a central place in our lives.
In politics, both Tony Blair and George W. Bush have claimed that individual responsibility is at the centre of their policy agendas.
In morality and the law, it seems just that people should be rewarded or punished only for things for which they are responsible.
Yet responsibility is a hotly contested concept. Some philosophers claim that it is impossible, while others insist on both its possibility and importance.
This debate has become increasingly technical in the philosophical literature, but it is seldom connected to our practices of politics and the law. Matravers asks, What are we doing when we hold people responsible in deciding questions of distributive justice or of punishment?.
By addressing this question, he not only shows how philosophy can help in thinking about current political and legal controversies, but also how we can keep hold of the idea of responsibility in an age in which we are increasingly impressed by the roles of genetics and environment in shaping us and our characters.