Consequentialism and the Responsibility of Children: A Forward-Looking Distinction between the Responsibility of Children and Adults

Daphne Brandenburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this paper I provide a forward-looking account of the difference between the responsibility of children and the responsibility of adults. I do so by means of criticizing agency-cultivation accounts of responsibility. According to these accounts, the justification for holding a person to a norm is the cultivation of their moral agency, and children are, just like adults, considered responsible to the extent that they can have their moral agency cultivated in this manner. Like many forward-looking accounts, these accounts claim that the purpose of holding adults to norms is similar to the purpose of holding children to norms. I argue that the justifications for holding adults to norms are different because of the particular ways in which adults can be in moral disagreement with one another, and the consequences that this has. Moral disagreement is relevant to consequentialist accounts because it impacts on whether and how we can secure beneficial outcomes via holding someone to a norm. One of the upshots of this analysis is that the forward-looking justification for holding adults to norms is qualitatively different from how and why we should hold children to norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-483
Number of pages13
JournalThe Monist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1-Oct-2021

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