Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Byron Williston

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


The aim of the dissertation is to propose a new theory of collective responsibility that will be able to determine individual responsibility for collective harms from small collectives to large, unstructured collectives. Theories of collective responsibility seek to address the harms that are caused when agents work collectively, and then to determine where responsibility will he in such cases. In the dissertation I show that these theories cannot address large, unstructured harms while being reducible to the individual. The key case for this dissertation is climate change, and I propose a theory of collective responsibility that will both identify this as a collective harm and determine individual moral responsibility.

Many scholars have written on collective responsibility I begin the dissertation with the question is climate change a collective harm? And if it is, what are the members of that collective responsible for? Examining key theories of collective responsibility including Margaret Gilbert’s “plural subject” and Christopher Kutz’s “participatory intentions” I argue that to defend an individualist account that can address collective harms a shift in procedure is required. I propose a theory that first determines membership in a collective, then assesses the moral responsibility of those members, and finally distributes responsibility in a just manner. By applying my theory to the case of climate change I am able to identify the collective that is causing the harm, identify who are the responsible members, and distribute moral responsibility.

Convocation Year


Included in

Psychology Commons