Responsibility and What’s Right

Is it ever justifiable to behave or act irresponsibly in pursuit of what’s right? In my opinion irresponsibility requires no justification but I recognize most would not agree. The typical view is that to be irresponsible is to neglect or avoid doing the right thing. One of the hallmarks of irresponsible behavior is knowledge of the “right” “correct” or “socially acceptable” behavior and a conscious, willful decision to behave in ways contrary to it. Simply put to be irresponsible is to know what is right and ignore it. Ignorance of what is right is not enough by my simple definition. Many people know things that are right, things they should be doing, but they simply don’t do them. They do not act at all. We generally do not call them irresponsible. Weak maybe, or lazy, or cowardly, or a host of others terms, but not irresponsible. The irresponsible take this a step further, they know the right thing and choose to act in ways completely antithetical to that knowledge. Irresponsibility then is an act that requires the ability to know what is right and what is wrong and to freely choose the wrong.

All that said, in contrast to evil or even sinful actions or behavior, irresponsibility is generally not considered as “bad” or as morally reprehensible. The morality of the irresponsible is far from pristine to be sure but men like Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin, while undeniably evil and often described as such, are rarely if ever characterized as irresponsible. To put it another way irresponsible behavior is not necessarily sinful behavior but evil behavior by its very nature always is. In many ways than irresponsibility can be considered a “lesser” moral failing. In fact, in modern pop culture, irresponsibility is sometimes celebrated. The characters that push at the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior are considered irresponsible by the conservative preservers of the status quo but are looked up to and even envied by many of the less audacious but generally liberal characters. These liberals yearn to experience the freedom that irresponsibility seems to grant but are to afraid of condemnation or of being ostracized from the community to behave in that way.

I will argue that because irresponsibility is a lesser wrong there are many more cases where acting irresponsible in defense of what is right is morally justified. In contrast, evil actions, can almost never or never be just justified even in defense of what is obviously the right thing. The first of these is the much easier case to make and I will dispense with it quickly. The second , acting/doing evil in defense of what is obviously the right thing is a much more difficult question and though my arguments will eventually (I hope) lead to the conclusion I stated above I have little doubt they will be weak and full of enough holes to drive a Mack truck through.

I am going to stop there for now. I need to think this one through a bit more before committing to the positions I laid out in that last paragraph, plus I need to post as much shit as possible tonight because of some stupid 1000 page view celebration idea I dreamed up, and like a dumbass thought sounded like a good idea.

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Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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