Moral Responsibility and Social Fiction

  • Toshiaki Kozakai


This chapter proposes to analyze the nature of moral responsibility. It does not explore how moral responsibility is practiced in specific cultural communities, in certain periods of time, or what kind of cognitive biases are observed according to social circumstances (Heider 1958; Weiner 1995). My concern is neither how human beings learn the attribution pattern of responsibility (Piaget 1932; Kohlberg 1981), nor what is the best conceptualization of moral responsibility. The first approach, typically socio-psychological, addresses biases of accounting for a criminal deed, but does not ask what moral responsibility is; the second, developmental, studies children’s evolution in causal attribution of responsibility, but does not determine what moral responsibility is; the third, philosophical, contends that moral responsibility can and should be founded transcendently out of socio-historical context. On the contrary, I affirm that moral responsibility is a social phenomenon, and that it is impossible to found or justify any “truth” independently of social contexts, because truth is a synonym of collective representation. I do not consider what one ought to be or to do, but what one is, and what one does effectively.


Moral Responsibility Causal Attribution Dead Body Experimental Social Psychology Innocent Victim 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arendt H (1963) Eichmann in jerusalem. Penguin, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Bauman Z (1989) Modernity and the holocaust. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NYGoogle Scholar
  3. Beauvois JL, Joule RV (1981) Obedience and ideologies (Soumission et idéologies). PUF, ParisGoogle Scholar
  4. Bem DJ (1972) Self-perception theory. In: Berkowitz L (Ed) Advances in experimental social psychology. Academic Press, New York, pp 61–62Google Scholar
  5. Blass T (2002) Perpetrator behavior as destructive obedience. In: Newman LS, Erber R (Eds) Understanding genocide. The social psychology of the holocaust. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Browning CR (1992) Ordinary men. Harper Collins, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Dennett DC (1991) Consciousness explained. Penguin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Durkheim E (1996) Determination of moral fact (Détermination du fait moral). In Sociology and philosophy (Sociologie et philosophie). PUF, Paris, pp 49–116Google Scholar
  9. Edwards DM, Franks P, Fridgood D, Lobban G, Mackay HCG (1969) An experiment on obedience. University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South AfricaGoogle Scholar
  10. Fauconnet P (1928) The responsibility. Sociological study (La Responsabilité. Étude de sociologie). Alcan, ParisGoogle Scholar
  11. Festinger L (1957) Theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford University Press, Stanford CAGoogle Scholar
  12. Fincham FD, Jaspars JM (1980) Attribution of responsibility: from man the scientist to man as lawyer. In: Berkowitz L (Ed) Advances in experimental social psychology. Academic Press, New York, pp 81–138Google Scholar
  13. Gazzaniga MS (1985) The social brain. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Girard R (1978) Things hidden since the foundation of the world (Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde). Grasset, ParisGoogle Scholar
  15. Goldhagen DJ (1996) Hitler’s willing executioners. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Hart HLA, Honoré T (1959) Causation in the law. Oxford University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. Heider F (1958) The psychology of interpersonal relations. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Hilberg R (1961) The destruction of the European Jews. Yale University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelsen H (1957) What is justice? Justice, law and politics in the mirrorbook of science. University of California Press, Berkeley CAGoogle Scholar
  20. Kohlberg K (1981) The philosophy of moral development. Harper and Row, San Francisco CAGoogle Scholar
  21. Kozakai T (2000) Strangers, identity (L’Étranger, l’identité). Payot et Rivages, ParisGoogle Scholar
  22. Kuroda W (1992) Action and norm (Kôi to kihan). Keisô-shobô, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  23. Langer EJ (1975) The illusion of control. J Pers Soc Psychol 32:311–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lerner MJ, Simmons CH (1966) Observer’s reaction to the “innocent victim”: compassion or rejection? J Pers Soc Psychol 4:203–210PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Leyens JP (1983) Are we all psychologists? (Sommes-nous tous des psychologues?) Pierre Mardaga, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  26. Libet B (2004) Mind time. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  27. Mantell DM (1971) The potential for violence in Germany. J Soc Issues 27:101–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Milgram S (1963) Behavioral study of obedience. J Abnorm Soc Psychol 67:371–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Milgram S (1965) Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority. Hum Relat 18:57–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Milgram S (1974) Obedience to authority. Pinter and Martin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Miller AG, Buddle AM, Kretschmar J (2002) Explaining the holocaust. Does social psychology exonerate the perpetrators? In: Newman LS, Erber R (Eds) Understanding genocide. The social psychology of the holocaust. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 301–324Google Scholar
  32. Miranda FSB, Caballero RB, Gomez MNG, Zamorano MAM (1981) Obediencia a la autoridad, Pisquis, 2:212–221Google Scholar
  33. Nakajima Y (1999) Time and freedom (Jikan to jiyû). Kôdan-sha, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  34. Nisbett RE, Wilson TD (1977) Telling more than we can know: verbal reports on mental processes. Psychol Rev 84:231–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pascal B (1977) Pensees (Pensées). Gallimard, ParisGoogle Scholar
  36. Piaget J (1932) The moral judgment of the child (Le jugement moral chez l’enfant). PUF, ParisGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosenbaum R (1999) Explaining hitler. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Ross L (1977) The Intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings. In: Berkowitz L (Ed) Advances in experimental social psychology, Academic Press, New York, pp 173–220Google Scholar
  39. Saltzman AL (2000) The role of the obedience experiments on Holocaust studies. In: Blass T (Ed) Obedience to authority. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah NJ, pp 125–143Google Scholar
  40. Schurz G (1985) Experimental examination of the relations between personality characteristics and the readiness for destructive obedience towards authority (Experimentelle Überprüfung des Zusammenhangs zwischen Persönlichkeitsmerkmalen und der Bereitschaft zum destruktiven Gehorsam gegenüber Autoritäten). Zeitschrift für experimentelle und angewandte Psychologie 32:160–177Google Scholar
  41. Shanab ME, Yahya KA (1977) A behavioral study of obedience in children. J Pers Soc Psychol 35:530–536PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shanab ME, Yahya KA (1978) A cross-cultural study of obedience. Bull Psychon Soc 11:267–269Google Scholar
  43. Strawson G (2003) The impossibility of moral responsibility. In: Watson G (Ed) Free will. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 212–228Google Scholar
  44. Weiner B (1995) Judgments of responsibility. Guildford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Wittgenstein L (1921) Tractatus logico-philosophicus, followed by Philosophical Investigations (Tractatus logico-philosophicus, suivi de investigations philosophiques). Gallimard, ParisGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Toshiaki Kozakai
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Université de Paris VIIISaint-DenisFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Psychologie environnementaleCNRS UMR 8069, Université Paris DescartesParis

Personalised recommendations