About the project

Roots of Responsibility draws on legal theory, which contains a rich literature on the relationships between responsibility, liability and culpability; biological systems theory, which has shown how the activity of more complex systems can harness stochasticity in the activity of the less complex systems of which they are composed; and the philosophy of action, in which the physical, psychological, ethical and intellectual dimensions of human agency are now more clearly articulated and better understood. The Roots of Responsibility will draw on all of these resources, cutting across traditional boundaries between metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of law.

The project’s objectives will be pursued through the following five strands of research:


The responsible agent

Analysing the physical, psychological and intellectual dispositions and capacities on which responsibility depends, and the kinds of incapacity that can exclude responsibility or diminish liability for wrongdoing.


Responsibility and liability

Examining the relationship between responsibility, culpability and liability in both legal and moral contexts, including the role of justification and excuse.


Responsibility and society

Exploring the social, institutional and interpersonal dynamics involved when questions about responsibility and liability are asked and answered, and their bearing on the theory of moral responsibility.


The metaphysics of responsibility

Re-examining the metaphysical implications of responsibility in the light of our analysis of its social and interpersonal dynamics.


Rationality, responsibility and scepticism

Reassessing naturalist responses to scepticism in the work of Hume, Wittgenstein and Strawson, and testing their application to scepticism about rationality, moral responsibility and free will.

In each of the five years of the project, the team will run ten seminars, host two lectures by invited speakers, and hold one or two workshops. Four post-doctoral research fellows will be appointed, each for two years, two during Years 2 and 3, and another two during Years 4 and 5. A closing international conference will be held in Year 5.

Roots of Responsibility has the total budget of €2.1, funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (project ID: 789270).

Banner image: Antonio Canova, Socrates Taking Leave of His Family (1787/90). Fondazione Cariplo. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.