Published Online: 1 FEB 2013
Copyright © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.
The International Encyclopedia of Ethics
How to Cite
Watson, G. 2013. Moral Agency. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .
- Published Online: 1 FEB 2013
The phrase “moral agency” is a term of art, but it designates an utterly familiar concept – the concept of an individual who can, to a significant extent, act effectively and competently in moral matters. This concept shows up in a variety of practical contexts. It is at issue when we worry about the criminal responsibility of 12-year-olds, or of psychotically deluded lawbreakers. From a different angle, it figures in our thoughts about whether to comply with the wishes of depressed hospital patients to discontinue life-support. These contexts exhibit different features of the concept. Moral agents are both autonomous (in other words, self-determining or self-governing; see Autonomy) and accountable.
- legal and political;
- moral status;
- normative ethics;