Jason's Blog

Archive for November 1st, 2005

Choices & responsibility

by on Nov.01, 2005, under General

I got this in an email and wanted to repost it here real quick:

No Excuses as a Philosophy

No excuses is core to the philosophy of existentialism, the message of which is about as simple as its gets (unlike many more obscure and academic philosophical movements):

Every one of us, as an individual, is responsibleresponsible for what we do, responsible for who we are, responsible for the way we face and deal with the world, responsible, ultimately, for the way the world is. It is, in a very short phrase, the philosophy of ‘no excuses!’ We cannot shift that burden onto the ways of the world, nature, or God. — Robert Solomon, Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Philosophy and Business and Distinguished Teaching Professor, University of Texas/Austin

It’s definitely an interesting view point – and one I can very much agree with and understand. Responsibility is the sole province of one’s self. It’s also about choosing to take on that responsibility instead of trying to pass it on to some other figure or place. Further, it’s also about not letting others try and take responsibility for your own actions.

Now, I will make an exception to this – in the sense for example of the military – i.e. I did this because I was ordered to do it. That might work up to a point, but only so far as the trust placed in those commanding you. Following the orders to kill women/children, or to bomb a village should never be undertaken without having the responsibility to ask why – if those women/children are trying to kill you, maybe. If those women/children are carrying diseases/bombs that could kill thousands, maybe (and all of these are VERY maybe’s in very hypothetical situations). This is why I supported the war in Afghanistan, but NOT the war in Iraq. Afghanistan I could see as a terrorist base that was making attacks against us. Iraq was definitely not, and from what I’ve seen, no WMD or sign that they had any inkling to do so.

In the military, the responsibility goes upwards – up the chain of command, and that also implies a level of trust in the chain of command and those leading. But, that doesn’t excuse someone from having responsibility to make their own choices – whether to question, whether to accept, and whether to trust – it’s about choice. This same concept applies a bit to other professions – you trust your boss to make good decisions about where to spend money – that’s a choice. You trust your elected officials to do their best for their people. You have to have some trust in the decisions of others. The place where a person NEEDS to question though is the decisions and choices that the person makes themselves – because those are choices you have control over. Who you vote for, and thus what the elected official does. What you eat. What you wear. Who you believe. Who you trust. Those are all choices you make and have to take responsibility for.

Other people have to make their own choices – you have to make yours. And, with that, you have to take responsibility for the choices you make.

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