An ethics of responsibility for our time

a proposal


  • Etienne de Villiers University of Pretoria



We live in a time in which the way of life characterised as “ethical” or “moral” is under stress. The challenge we face is to take up responsibility for salvaging and enhancing the exercise of moral responsibility in all spheres of life. It is argued in this article that the ethical approach to be followed in facing this challenge is the ethics of responsibility. This ethics should, however, not be conceptualised as yet another first-level normative ethical approach vying to replace existing ones, but as a second-level one. Such an approach recognises the indispensable contribution of existing normative ethical approaches to the exercise of moral responsibility. At the same time, it provides guidance to these approaches on enhancing the exercise of moral responsibility in a contextually appropriate manner. In the article, a case is made out for the ethics of responsibility that is proposed, followed by a discussion of its profile and agenda.






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