Editor's note: This paper was read at the eighth annual University of Dayton Philosophy Colloquium, held in 1979.

It may be argued along Hobbesian and Benthamite lines that a collectivity is an abstraction and can therefore be responsible only in a metaphorical sense. When we speak of collective responsibility we in fact refer, this argument would run, to the responsibility of each individual within the collectivity. When, for example, we speak of the moral obligations of the medical profession we are speaking of the moral obligations of each physician as physician. One may continue to argue in the same vein that efforts toward the moral and other improvements of the medical profession are efforts toward the improvement of each physician as physician, along with perhaps the improvements of the human and other services that the physician needs for the exercise of his profession. This stance raises problems that we must consider as we come to them: for example, to what precisely does the phrase "physician as physician" refer? Can we in fact separate the physician from the man? But more generally, faced with the plausibility of the argument under consideration, we may ask whether phrases like "the medical profession" are indeed substitutes for "all the physicians severally." This paper will endeavour to show that the answer to this question is a qualified no.



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