On Responsibility

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A reflection on Aristotles Meteorology

I have in recent reflections placed myself in the camp of the monists – seeing substance as consisting of that intermixture of mind, matter and time, only appearing different to us due to our existence as a fold within the greater fabric (see on Substance). However, a new difficulty arises from the pragmatic perspective of intentionality – for if the mind is present in all things doesn’t that mean that all actions would be intentional rather than devoid of value (see on Action)? And furthermore, if cognition is a facet of the greater mind, then how can we hold an individual responsible for the acts of the greater whole? To answer these questions, I will first examine individual responsibility, then turn to the issue of monism and value and the role it plays in our responsibility.

I would posit firstly that we should see individual responsibility existing similarly as a small aspect borrowed from the greater whole. By this, I mean that our virtue and vice is a fragmentary aspect of true goodness and evil as found in the cosmic whole, and by participating with a said value that we shape the physical world, as the physical and mind are indivisible, one cannot move without moving the other. In this sense, if we participate in the Good then the actions we commit involve us in the goodness of the whole – and vice versa when we participate in the evil the guilt of our crimes stains us with the greater evil of the whole.

Someone could then fairly lodge the question: if evil and good are but two unnatural parts of the same whole – the mind – then is it possible to achieve pure goodness? I would answer that purity – as in existence void of evil – is impossible, for evil and good are two sides of the same coin: the great arching bow of virtue through vice a complete circle. Evil and good exist relative to each other, as threads interwoven with the greater fabric of the mind and thus neither can exist independent of the other. It is by our participation in the fabric that we gather good and evil to ourselves – although the quantity and quality of the cloth we gather is that aspect of cognition which shapes both the physical mind and that spark of cognition which represents the greater whole towards either virtue or vice.

Original text

Aristotle’s Meteorology


Michelangelo, Punishment of Haman, 1511

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