Full Responsibility

On Pragmatic, Political, and Other Modes of Sharing Action

Expected to ship: 2022-09-01

Explores the basic forms of responsibility that we willingly assume and the collaborative fulfillment that we find in each.


Starting with an appreciation of the practical realizations that move us to assume responsibility, Full Responsibility develops an ontologically-grounded model of different forms of responsibility and the challenges and fulfillments found in each. Special attention is given to pragmatic and political responsibility, highlighting considerations for right action that are not accurately recognized by universalizing ethics. Issues in abortion decisions, providing for responsible work, and immigration and refugee policy are examined in the complex frame of political responsibility. Moving past the standoff between political moralism and political realism, Steven G. Smith offers an account of political responsibility as an unstable combination of all modes of responsibility. The book concludes by reviewing different approaches to the impossible but compelling ideal of full responsibility. The distinctive natures of ethical, historical, and religious forms of responsibility are discussed in appendices.

Steven G. Smith is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Millsaps College. His many books include Worth Doing and Centering and Extending: An Essay on Metaphysical Sense, both also published by SUNY Press.


"A very close examination of responsibility in most of its nuances, Smith's hypothetical scenarios breathe life into what, for other authors, might otherwise be dry dead husks of generalities and formalisms, demonstrating that such everyday activities as agreeing to move a piano for a friend are woven full of aspects of responsibility." — Marc M. Anderson, author of Hyperthematics: The Logic of Value