Etymol & interdependence LO5978

Charles Parry (
05 Mar 96 00:52:12 EST

Replying to: A note on etymology LO5968


Good point about etymology. I think that the word in question is a rather
important one in enacting LO's because it is connected fairly directly to
how people relate to interdependence.

So I have to take issue with your statement in the interest of pushing a
bit further for clarity. Where is your own definition found in the
etymology you quoted?

> to be responsible means to have *obligation* to
something, which is unaffected by the ability to affect it.

> comes from the Latin "respondere" meaning "promise in return" Ayto,
John. _Dictionary of Word Origins_: USA: Little, Brown, 1990).

IMHO, what perhaps is worth noticing in the reframing of responsible as
response-able is that there is a precondition of an exchange, of action
taken - as contrasted with the "You're responsible for that" useage in
which responsible is a substitute for "to blame" or an obligation put on
someone without any action (promising) on their part. There is also, if we
zoom in a bit, a missing or unspecified other who is being promised *back*
to! Responsibility, then IMHO, specifies a type of contracting. Without
this awareness IMHO we perpetrate a one up, one down (often emphasizing
the down), dependence framework - instead of the more etymologically
"correct" framework of an interdependence.

The etymology of "obligation" by the way is from Latin obligare, to bind
or tie, as in (potentially) binding someone to something with a promise.
However, it can also indicate an involuntary or imposed tie or bond. I
guess my key point is that responsibility is in its impulse a choice or
action which then creates something tied in place and in that sense no
longer a choice.

In my general experience, people relate only to the second part of the
process, and so the "ability" to be an actor regarding promises and bonds
is deleted, which often leads to a guarded resistant, persecuted
orientation to responsibilities - often referred to as a "victim" stance.
OK, one last time - "victim" is apparently one of those age-old words
whose meaning is so central to human experience that its etymology has no
drift of meaning. The etymology is the Latin victima; a victim. Victim is
defined as "a living being offered as a sacrifice, one who is persecuted".
(references taken from An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language
(unabridged) by W.W. Skeat, Oxford Press 1991 - By the way, IMHO this book
is the very best etymological reference available for sussing out the root
meanings of "loaded" English words. Bummer is that it goes for over a
hundred and forty buckaroos, but well worth it).

Charles Parry
Specialized Resources International


Charles Parry <>

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