Jan Hartman
Principia, 31-044 Kraków, ul. Grodzka 52

Jan Hartman


Towards the global right to move

[This text is fully “self-made”, then I appologize for all linguistic errors that certainly load it. It has been published only in Polish]

Let me start with a very schematic presentation of the notion of responsibility, then I will explain my understanding of loyalty.

Popularly responsibility is treated par excellence subjectively, i.e. as individual responsibility. This is related to the belief that responsibility of the guilty one is the paradigmatic case of responsibility and guilt is individual exactly like punishment equivalent to the guilt. However, understanding responsibility through the prism of guilt, i.e. understanding it individually and subjectively, is misleading as it obscures the objective and supra-individual nature of this ideal phenomenon.

According to my understanding responsibility is the question of facts - it is an objective necessary of action when circumstances call for it. It is also the necessity to pay the consequences of the evil that appeared and occurred in our existential space. This space is delimited not only by obligations we have undertaken, the acts of assumption of responsibility, but generally by all real relations between people which are the context of our actions and relinquishment. These relations include also those determined by a political or territorial community, common or contradictory interests, unity of working place etc. Each of such relations potentially triggers reciprocal obligations, including the obligation to act jointly, for example to oppose the evil; that obligation pertains to all persons who are part of the relation. It is in the space of these potential or, rather, still concealed relations, that responsibility is born. Consequently, responsibility is the objective consequence of being in any community and not only the consequence of obligations assumed or actions taken voluntarily. Responsibility is borne individually because evil is experienced individually but as a moral state of affairs it is supra-individual and objective. In other words, we are responsible not only for what we have voluntarily assumed to do and not only for acts done or negligence. We are responsible for everything that is happening in our living space. Therefore responsibility is, naturally, general, public, which does not mean the same as collective.

The structure of responsibility resembles the force reaction field, for example the electromagnetic field. It is infinite but its intensity radically decreases as the distance to its source increases. In a moral field it is someone’s voluntary decisions, acts and negligence which are the source of responsibility. Although voluntary character of action is only an idealized theoretical concept, practically it is known who is responsible at the source, who is primarily responsible for some evil or good, in other words: who is guilty or who has a merit. The less we are dealing with some given decisions and acts and people who make them, the less we are responsible for them. It does not mean that we ever stop being responsible at all. The sphere of responsibility extends indefinitely and comprises the whole of mankind. For example, all people are responsible for the Middle East crisis although Poles are less responsible than the Palestinians and Jews, those who died recently and those living nowadays are more responsible than future generations etc. This means that responsibility exists potentially, being the burden of a duty which, sooner or later, materializes as the direct necessity of action requiring an effort in favour of somebody else’s or even our own good. Responsibility is particularly tragic when, as we often say, “it is too late”, when something bad has happened which cannot be repaired. Then responsibility results in the necessity of paying the consequences, not actively but passively (and the passivity is tragic), of the wrong, which occurred in our living space - not necessarily in connection with our voluntary acts or relinquishment.

It must be remembered that responsibility is also a virtue, the virtue of being ready to pay the consequence of wrong doing, as well as the ability to watch so that the wrong does not happen. The first part can be defined as the virtue of consequential responsibility, whereas the second part as the virtue of current responsibility.

Careful distinction must be made between guilt, duty and responsibility. Guilt is a special case of concentration, intensified responsibility over a specific being in connection with a real relationship between the wrong and its voluntary acts or conscious abandonment. This is a border, idealized, counter-factual case of responsibility, being in principle an intersubjective state of affairs. There is no absolute guilt or purely individual responsibility, just like there is no punishment that would be suffered by one person only. However, very often responsibility is focused in a special way on one person and punishment in a special way is suffered by one person defined, again in an idealized way, as the only wrong doer. When it comes to duty, it is the consequence and way of living the responsibility but it is not responsibility itself. Responsibility is imperative and compulsory as it results in a duty, hence it acts as “assumption of obligations”, popularly called obligation.

Now it is time to define the nature of loyalty. I undersatnd it as a psychological phenomenon, responsibility being purely moral (or ideal) one. Loyalty is a real tie occurring in our existential space which, experienced as a phenomenon that triggers duty, strengthens responsibility in a given subject, the readiness to act for the people with whom we are bound by this tie. So loyalty is a disposition, effective ability to pay consequences, however not in the absolute, ideal meaning (hence, not in the meaning of the true virtue of responsibility) but in the psychological meaning - as the feeling of responsibility. This feeling comprises some narrower or wider circle of our existential space and clearly does not comprise the wide space of foreignness - strange people and their affairs. It happens that the feeling of responsibility and loyalty is restricted to one’s own family only or even not. Strong and vivid experience of loyalty, suplied with compassion, is known under the very well adwertised name of solidarity.

Insofar as our objective responsibility for good and wrong in the ideal iter world is extended to universum, being our broadest existential space, loyalty as a psychic phenomenon naturally determines the borders of its extent, the border which separates those towards whom we are loyal from those for whom we do not care and for whom we do not want to assume any responsibility, even this which in fact obliges us. Obviously, the way in which this border is determined and the attitude to strangers is of a fundamental political significance. Political philosophy is generally in agreement as to the fact that the minimum of responsibility which societies should assume towards those who are outside the border of loyalty is defined by the category of respect. This category entails at least recognition of the right to exist and the right to self-determine. The principle of respect can be, however indifference: we respect your rights as we do not care much about you and only until we start to care about you as a fragment of the space of our own interests. Political respect can be thus unstable, having weak moral foundations, whereas. recognizing in strangers their inalienable rights as human beings, i.e. recognizing the so-called “human rights”, is a stronger, positive version of respect.

Practically however, despite some traces of a positive respect as a minimum responsibility in political relationships, there is no real political possibility to exclude repressiveness towards strangers, towards communities living outside our sphere of loyalty. The ideals lose to ideologies that push them out and take over power. The ideas of universal law and order, civilization, universal mankind and even brotherhood of all the people have motivated political organization to use violence since ancient times.

Is ideal responsibility, free from the psychological mechanism of loyalty that leads to conflicts, which separates one’s countrymen from strangers, us from them, possible? My answer is: it is possible idealiter, which means that it must be accepted as a regulatory idea and such political acts which work towards the abolishment of antagonism between ideal responsibility and psychological loyalty must be recommended.

Loyalty however is not only a psychological concept, the psychological modus of the concept of responsibility but it is also a political notion, i.e. a practical notion, referring to real political practice which, in the end, is handled by political philosophy. In this political context, the so-called exclusion is the conceptual complement and antithesis of loyalty. Exclusion can be defined as real, i.e. having practical consequences, lack of ties, respectively to how loyalty can be defined as effective, causal tie. Loyalty always conditions some exclusion and yet at the same time it seems a really necessary condition for people to effectively pay consequences, to exercise one’s duties towards other people. Wherever responsibility is effective, fulfilled, there is loyalty towards some community; where is loyalty, there is also exclusion, giving priority to the good of some over the good of others: this is the crux of the dialectics of responsibility and loyalty, of the moral ideal and its real representation.

Everybody’s responsibility for the whole of mankind is a moral fact. Restricted character, locality of each loyalty and ineffectiveness, imperfection of human responsibility is a psychological and political fact. It is not possible to create a global community whose members would be so loyal to each other as members of local communities are. However, we can get something else. Namely, the global spread of the awareness of universal responsibility and, consequently, the feeling of the duty to care for universal, global good, the good of all. This universal moral awareness started to pave its way until ideal ethical notions had been formulated, including the notion of virtue, duty and obligation. This happened about 2500 years ago in Greece as a result of the introduction of the moral and intellectual programme which is most generally called practical philosophy. Since that time the universal moral idea has made some progress assuming different forms - that of state ideology of Imperium Romanum, that of the evangelical mission of the Christian church, that of the modern concept of state of law and other. In our times the awareness that universal moral norms are binding, hence they are binding also outside one’s own community, is almost global. This is a good omen for the future. The world in which local loyalties will not pose a threat to the neighbouring communities of those who are excluded through these ties of loyalty is feasible. However, I claim that progress towards world peace does not simply mean dissemination of the positive idea of respect which supersedes the idea of exclusion from the function of real antithesis of loyalty. This progress rather means dissemination of a new, global contract, social and political agreement, not relying upon fragile ideals or fancy loyalty, but relying upon a basic responsibility.

Each traditional community loyalty assumes some form of subordination of individuals to some general authority, usually the authority of custom and institution of religious cult. The authoritativeness of this authority is most clearly defined in conflicts with external forces and in cases when someone tries to question the tradition of the community or even abandon it. Insofar as one cannot expect traditional communities to give their members some significant freedom to choose their lifestyle, the more so that they implant liberal procedures and social facilities into themselves, one can imagine however that in exchange for the guarantees of external security, i.e. respect by other communities, including the community of free world, traditional communities will allow their members to freely leave them and move to other political communities, including the free world. This is precisely the global contract which I am referring to: instead of the mostly unrealistic right to choose - the minimalist right to move. Let us call this contract “Go your own way!”

The “go your own way” contract it is not only emigration, i.e. abandonment of one’s own community and its territory. In cosmopolitan regions of the world very different or even hostile communities often live in the same territory. The case of emigration is, however, particularly important for the effectiveness of the contract. For the “go your own way contract to be real, at least one community, more specifically the pluralistic community of the free world, must be ready to take emigrants, even on strict conditions. Insofar as the free world is today ready to respect (negatively) the sovereignty of non-democratic communities, and to some extent respects a non-democratic community in its own territory, it does not seem today to be ready to accept emigrants on a large scale, i.e. to play an active role in the strengthening of the “go your own way” contract. Insofar as non-democratic communities are willing to accept the guarantees of external security at the expense of certain concessions in the relations with the free world (including the weakening of the oppressiveness of the state system), they are generally not ready to permit their citizens to emigrate freely. Even worse, they try to make it more difficult for them to acquire knowledge about conditions of living in communities other than their own, and particularly in the free world.

Although it is still far to go I believe that sometime in the future the global “go your own way” contract will be implemented. On the one hand, I consider this contract a condition to abolish the antagonism of loyalty and responsibility, on the other a condition of relative world peace.