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Applying Brown and Savulescu: the diachronic condition as excuse
  1. Neil Levy1,2
  1. 1 Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Neil Levy, Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia; neil.levy{at}

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In applied ethics, debates about responsibility have been relentlessly individualistic and synchronic, even as recognition has increased in both philosophy and psychology that agency is distributed across time and individuals. I therefore warmly welcome Brown and Savulescu’s analysis of the conditions under which responsibility can be shared and extended. By carefully delineating how diachronic and dyadic responsibility interact with the long-established control and epistemic conditions, they lay the groundwork needed for identifying how responsibility may be inter-individual and intra-individual.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t agree with every aspect of their rich account (as they anticipate, in discussing my work). I strongly suspect that the privileged place the individual continues to occupy in their taxonomy is a residue of the kind of internalist intuitions which dominate WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic) thinking.1 2 However, I won’t pursue this line of thought here (having done so elsewhere3). Instead, I apply Brown and Savulescu’s analysis. Moving beyond the programmatic level at which they develop their account, I will show how it provides a basis for excusing many individuals, focusing not on the dyadic (or, as I would prefer, social) level but the diachronic.

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