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Responsibility (from Latinrespondere "respond, answer to, promise in return"[1]) is the ability of man to account for the consequences of their own actions (personal responsibility) or those of others, carried out with conscious intent, and to bear the associated consequences. Philosophically, moral responsibility means deserving praise, blame, reward or punishment for an action or omission in accordance with one's moral obligations. Deciding what (if anything) counts as "morally obligatory" is a major concern of ethics. The basis for this is an emotionally predisposed, subconsciously or semi-consciously feeling of responsibility, which increases to a true sense of responsibility when it is fully raised to consciousness by clear thinking.

In legal life, responsibility results from the legal duty imposed on a person or group of persons towards another person or group of persons on the basis of the applicable law and can be claimed in court if necessary.

In order to be able to assume responsibility out of individual freedom, completely independent of any externally given rule, the capacity for moral intuition is necessary, as already described in detail by Rudolf Steiner in his "Philosophy of Freedom".

A sense of responsibility is an absolute prerequisite for any kind of spiritual training:

„Throughout all phases of his existence on earth, man is bound up in his karma, which he cannot possibly escape, for the consequences of his will, feeling and thinking, and especially of his deeds, follow him irrevocably through all his incarnations, whether sooner or later. The guilt he has incurred must be redeemed on this earth, depending on the circumstances in which he is placed by his incarnation. Divine guidance takes care of this. Before man himself takes his development into his own hands, everything proceeds according to regulated laws which cannot be accelerated by anything. When he enters an esoteric training, something quite different happens to him. He frees himself from the guidance, he takes his development into his own hands, he becomes qualitatively a different person. Through what? Everything he formerly considered desirable now loses its value for him on the whole, his views and attitudes become different, he sees that in former times he often acted without compassion and harshly; his sense of responsibility becomes from now on a much more subtle one and he tries in every direction to make up for the guilt he has committed, even though it costs him great sacrifices outwardly and inwardly.“ (Lit.:GA 266b, p. 334f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.