Friday, December 26, 2008

Question of the Day

A couple of days ago, I watched the old Spencer Tracy film Judgment at Nuremberg, and it got me thinking about collective moral responsibility.

Is there such a thing as legitimate guilt for an action that a person has no indirect involvement in? For example, does an ordinary German born after 1945 have some guilt or moral debt to Holocaust survivors, or does an American born in the 21st Century bear some guilt or moral debt to Native Americans?

8 comments:

Michael said...

I don't think so. This is not to say that subsequent generations cannot, or should not, right the wrongs as a matter of social justice just because it's right and not merely out of some sense of guilt, collective or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

No. There is no legitimate justification for holding children accountable for the sins of their parents.

johnmeunier said...

Augustine's theory of orginal sin says yes, doesn't it?

jockeystreet said...

"Guilt," no. But to the extent that we continue to benefit from past wrongs, I think we can continue to owe a certain sort of moral debt.

Jeff said...

I agree with jockeystreet, as long as we continue to benefit from past wrongs we owe a certain amount of moral debt. I'd also add that as long as we allow the results of those past wrongs to fester, i.e. lost identity, perpetual poverty, etc. that moral debt will also continue.

Keith Taylor said...

Jockeysteet, parallels what the Bible says.

That if a man or woman sin, it can can visit itself on their descendants to the third or forth generation. Exodus 34.

Does it mean that those children are guilty of the sin? No, but it does mean that sin has consequences and those consequences my reach that far into the future.

Elizabeth said...

I'm with jockeystreet. (Surprise, surprise.) Not guilt, but responsibility, as long as we continue to benefit from past oppression. If I'm still benefiting today from the sins of the past, I need to be aware of how the playing field isn't level, and work to level it.

Jeff the Baptist said...

No. People cannot hold other people responsible for the sins of their parents. That sort of judgment and punishment is reserved for God alone.