Aitia – Aristotelian guilt. Definitional issues (part 2) Cover Image

Aitia – wina arystotelesowska. Zagadnienia definicyjne. Część II
Aitia – Aristotelian guilt. Definitional issues (part 2)

Author(s): Waldemar Gontarski
Subject(s): Ethics / Practical Philosophy, Ancient Philosphy, Philosophy of Law
Published by: Stowarzyszenie Filozofii Prawa i Filozofii Społecznej – Sekcja Polska IVR
Keywords: Aristotle; the triad of causes; the triad of consequences; justice

Summary/Abstract: When engaging in polemics with Pythagoras, Aristotle observed that the retributive function of punishment, as distinguished from the preventative one, does not involve revenge understood as material retaliation (i.e. suffering for suffering, meaning retaliation proportional to the damage suffered). It does not encompass a simple reciprocity, such as suffering in turn (ἀντιπάσχω), but instead shall be considered as a just reciprocity, meaning doing in return (ἀντιποιέω), whereby the degree of mental contribution is taken into account. The classical theory of responsibility, at least under the meaning assigned to it by Aristotle, considers human responsibility by means of reference to mental capabilities of the actor in respect to a particular harmful action. An action involving human guilt is consequently contrasted with an accidentally caused action. In the works of Stagirite the mental attitude of the actor towards his action distinguishes human causation from the accidental one and from the forced one. Pythagoras, on the other hand, discussed material retaliation, meaning objective responsibility. At the same time, the author of Nicomachean Ethics had already experienced the system of subjective responsibility based on the concept of knowingly caused damage as opposed to the system of objective responsibility involving the objective causal relationship between the actor’s behavior and the resulting damage). Aristotle has extended the concept of subjective responsibility to cover both knowingly caused damage (intentional fault) and unintentional fault, whereby the damage is directly caused by the negligent conduct of the actor, meaning the failure of the latter to observe required objective and abstract standards. The mental component and the related subjectivization involve the actor possessing required intellectual capabilities, but not using them in a way as to observe the aforementioned imposed standards. Nonetheless, the potential mental component is itself not sufficient to establish guilt. Otherwise, all the people (apart from those lacking capacity at all) shall be declared guilty regardless of the fact that the damage was caused by them accidentally.

  • Issue Year: 6/2013
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 68-92
  • Page Count: 25
  • Language: Polish