Reflective Responsibility

Reflective Responsibility

Bernd Carsten Stahl (De Montford University, UK)
Copyright: © 2004 |Pages: 35
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-172-8.ch005


What is “reflective responsibility”? The idea behind it is to see whether the concept as discussed so far is applicable to itself and what consequences result from the self-application. It is an attempt to clarify the notion by referring to the term itself without using any other theories. The self-application of concepts is an old tool used by philosophers for centuries, sometimes with great success. The probably best-known example which demonstrates that reflexivity can be highly successful and plausible is the refutation of scepticism. Scepticism, understood as the doctrine that there is no truth, has been part of the philosophical discourse ever since humans started discussing truth. Given the difficulties of defining truth and the obvious fallibility of our knowledge, it is an attractive position that allows the speaker to avoid many pitfalls. However, scepticism has one big problem, which becomes obvious as soon as one applies the idea onto itself. If scepticism is true and consequently there is no truth, then scepticism cannot be true. Scepticism can thus be shown to be self-contradictory. Self-reference on the other hand is also a dangerous game to play because it can create serious logical and practical problems. One example is the mathematical class of all classes that contain themselves. This has led to logical problems that have kept the mathematicians in work for a greater part of the 20th century. A rather practical problem is that of self-fulfilling prophecies. These are created by applying a theory to itself, and they can have a considerable social impact (cf. Watzlawik, 2001b).

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