Constitutional Responsibility

28 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2008

See all articles by Andras Szigeti

Andras Szigeti

Philosophy Department, Central European University

T. J. Donahue

Institute for Philosophical Research, UNAM

Date Written: March 24, 2008


This paper asks whether an individual or a political community (henceforth: 'constitutional community') ever incurs moral responsibility for the requirements made by the norms of their constitution. We argue, first, that any constitutional community bears collective moral responsibility for those requirements. We reach this thesis by showing that (i) a constitutional community is a group which can take collective actions attributable to the group as a whole, and (ii) any given set of constitutional norms is the outcome of such collective action. We argue, second, that ordinary citizens of constitutional communities can, in normal circumstances, bear individual moral responsibility for such norms. We reach this second thesis by showing that an average citizen bears individual responsibility for the direct outcome of her polity's collective action whenever she both (1) contributes to the collective action where she need not fear serious reprisals for not contributing, and (2) supports and reflectively endorses the outcome.

Keywords: constitutions, constitutional norms, collective responsibility, individual responsibility, group agency

JEL Classification: D63, D70, K10

Suggested Citation

Szigeti, Andras and Donahue, T. J., Constitutional Responsibility (March 24, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Andras Szigeti

Philosophy Department, Central European University ( email )

H 1051
Nador u. 9

T. J. Donahue (Contact Author)

Institute for Philosophical Research, UNAM ( email )

Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n
Ciudad Universitaria
Coyoacán, Mexico, Distrito Federal C.P. 04510

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