Recognizing Responsibility

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Williams opens his chapter “Recognizing Responsibility” with two short Homeric excerpts, which he continues to reference throughout the chapter. Through these passages, he explores the idea of “intention” and its implications. The first instance is from the Odyssey. In this example, Williams details a scene in which Telemachus unintentionally leaves the door to the storeroom open. This allows the suitors to take weapons from the room. Here we see an example of an “everyday mistake”; Telemachus simply overlooked the door much like how we may overlook something in our lives. Importantly, Telemachus states that “he and no one else was aitios”—he was the cause and he is to blame (52). Williams uses this example as a foil to Agamemmon. Agamemmon establishes himself as the opposite of aitios. When he committed his crime, he was acting under “delusion” or “blind madness,” and therefore, in some magical or altered state, opposed to the ordinary state of Telemachus. A further difference is that Agamemmon committed the act intentionally. Williams uses these two examples to point out that while the intention and causality of the two circumstances are different, they are similar in the way that they both must assume responsibility. It is by “virtue of what he did” that necessitates reparation for the two characters (53). By pitting the stories together, Williams formulates the four basic elements of any conception of responsibility: i) Cause: “that in virtue of what he did, someone has brought about a bad state of affairs” ii) Intention: “that he did or did not intend that state of affairs” iii) State: “that he was or was not in a normal state of mind when he brought it about” iv) Response: “that it is his business, if an... ... middle of paper ... ...s bases his arguments on poetical examples. It seems that he genuinely feels that there is cognitive value in the arts. I do agree with most of this piece (so far). The one part that struck me, however, as threadbare was Williams’ choice to not talk about love and guilt. Williams makes a point to say that guilt is the fear of eliciting “anger, resentment, or indignation” (89). This makes it seems as if guilt is a very superficial occurrence. I would like to argue, though, that there is a sense of guilt that comes from the fear that we may lose the love from someone we care about. This doesn’t make it any less superficial, but it is a necessary component. Also, I wonder how pity plays into our lives today. We can see examples of it in art, such as Sophie’s Choice, but is it the same as it was for the Greeks? I feel as if it is, perhaps, a little different.

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