This book offers a much needed overview of the neglected notion of responsibility. Instead of offering vague talk about “individual responsibility” or “corporate responsibility,” Daryl Koehn examines in detail four accounts of responsibility, taking care to specify what responsibility does and does not mean in each account. She argues for a return to the ancient concept of Socratic dialogical responsibility, a concept that avoids many of the problems inherent in the other accounts.
After examining the Anglo-American criminal legal system’s treatment of responsibility as intentional agency, she critiques Hans Jonas’s concept of responsibility as ontological care and Hannah Arendt’s notion of communicative responsibility. She provides a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach to responsibility. The final chapter makes the case for Socratic dialogical responsibility. Dialogical responsibility has many strengths in its own right and avoids the major pitfalls of the other notions of responsibility examined in the book. It serves as an eminently practical way to hold ourselves responsible for our actions and speech. In addition, dialogical responsibility alone qualifies as a virtue integral to the good life.