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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The concepts of freedom, responsibility, and moral agency are tightly interwoven in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thought and have to do with the relation of subject to the other that is at the centre of Bonhoeffer’s ethics and theological anthropology. This chapter presents and critically examines these three concepts. It argues that Bonhoeffer’s key notion of responsibility for the other (that is, liability) is an important and permanent contribution to Christian ethics. It also argues that Bonhoeffer’s notions of the responsibility of the agent (that is, imputability) and the agent’s responsibility to the other (that is, accountability) are attenuated, to the detriment of his ethics. Finally, the chapter argues that Bonhoeffer’s treatment of vicarious representative action as an expression of responsibility for the other is more ambiguous and less suited to be a basic principle of social ethics than Bonhoeffer supposes.

Keywords: agency, Christian ethics, Christian social ethics, freedom, responsibility, vicarious representative action

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