Against Moral Responsibility
In Against Moral Responsibility, Bruce Waller 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. Waller 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, he contends, leaves no room for moral responsibility.
Waller 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 his argument, Waller 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. Waller not only mounts a vigorous, and philosophically rigorous, attack on the moral responsibility system, but also celebrates the benefits that would result from its total abolition.
About the Author
Bruce N. Waller is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University. He is the author of The Natural Selection of Autonomy, Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues, and other books.
"Cogently written, scientifically informed, and compellingly argued, Bruce Waller's Against Moral Responsibility makes the case for the incompatibility of naturalism and moral responsibility. For those of us who shun miraculous intervention, Waller's message is, perhaps surprisingly, optimistic. Although we must reject the notions of justified praise and blame, we can still have our free will, moral judgments, and warm personal relationships. Waller's original monograph offers us a world absent moral responsibility but better off for it."
Mark H. Bernstein, Joyce & Edward E. Brewer Chair in Applied Ethics, Purdue University
"Waller's daring proposal, that we scrap our belief in moral responsibility in light of naturalism, points the way to a more humane and effective responsibility system. Against Moral Responsibility is a must-read on the free will debate and why it matters."
Tom Clark, Director, Center for Naturalism