Responsibility and the Negligence Standard

Joseph Raz, Columbia Law School


I identify a sense of ‘responsibility’ by which X is responsible for Φing iff X’s Φing was related to his capacities of rational agency in an appropriate way. I argue that the Guidance Principle (roughly: we are responsible for actions guided by our powers of rational agency when they are performed for, what we believe to be, an adequate reason, and their performance is controlled and guided by our beliefs about what reasons we have) provides a sufficient condition for responsibility, but that responsibility for negligence shows that the Guidance Principle is not necessary for responsibility. Much of the article is devoted to an analysis of negligence, and the associated duties, distinguishing between them and strict liability on the one hand and from liability arising under the Guidance Principle on the other hand. The discussion of negligence leads to a new conception of responsibility, embodied in the Rational Functioning Principle, of which the Guidance Principle is an important, but not the only component. Roughly speaking it holds us (non-derivatively) responsible for conduct which is the result of the functioning, successful or failed, of our powers of rational agency.