Keep Score and Punish: Brandom’s Concept of Responsibility

In Philosophy & Social Criticism 48.8 (2002), 922–941.


Although seldom examined and not explained by Robert Brandom himself, the concept of responsibility is as important as the concept of inference for Brandom’s account of discursivity. Whereas ‘inference’ makes explicit the propositional content of concepts as the inferentially structured totality of their relations of material incompatibility, ‘responsibility’ makes explicit the normative force of these relations. ‘Responsibility’ thus becomes the paradigm of understanding normativity’s binding force—and my critical reading demonstrates that it fosters a moralizing, juridifying and economizing understanding of normativity’s binding force. Furthermore, a diagnostic interpretation of Nietzsche’s genealogy of ‘responsibility’ reveals that Brandom’s concept of ‘responsibility’ is not an exception but exemplary for how ‘responsibility’ is used in philosophy.