Against Moral Responsibility

Against Moral Responsibility

Bruce N. Waller

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780262016599

Publisher: The MIT Press


This book launches a spirited attack on a system that is profoundly entrenched in our society and its institutions, deeply rooted in our emotions, and vigorously defended by philosophers from ancient times to the present. The book argues that, despite the creative defenses of it by contemporary thinkers, moral responsibility cannot survive in our naturalistic-scientific system. The scientific understanding of human behavior and the causes that shape human character, it contends, leaves no room for moral responsibility. The book argues that moral responsibility in all its forms—including criminal justice, distributive justice, and all claims of just deserts—is fundamentally unfair and harmful and that its abolition will be liberating and beneficial. What we really want—natural human free will, moral judgments, meaningful human relationships, creative abilities—would survive and flourish without moral responsibility. In the course of this argument, the book examines the origins of the basic belief in moral responsibility, proposes a naturalistic understanding of free will, offers a detailed argument against moral responsibility and critiques arguments in favor of it, gives a general account of what a world without moral responsibility would look like, and examines the social and psychological aspects of abolishing moral responsibility. It not only mounts a vigorous attack on the moral responsibility system, but also celebrates the benefits that would result from its total abolition.