Bruce N. Waller

Bruce N. Waller is Professor of Philosophy at Youngstown State University. He is the author of Against Moral Responsibility (MIT Press).

  • The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility

    The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility

    Bruce N. Waller

    An examination of the powerful social and psychological factors that hold the belief in moral responsibility firmly in place.

    The philosophical commitment to moral responsibility seems unshakable. But, argues Bruce Waller, the philosophical belief in moral responsibility is much stronger than the philosophical arguments in favor of it. Philosophers have tried to make sense of moral responsibility for centuries, with mixed results. Most contemporary philosophers insist that even conclusive proof of determinism would not and should not result in doubts about moral responsibility. Many embrace compatibilist views, and propose an amazing variety of competing compatibilist arguments for saving moral responsibility. In this provocative book, Waller examines the stubborn philosophical belief in moral responsibility, surveying the philosophical arguments for it but focusing on the system that supports these arguments: powerful social and psychological factors that hold the belief in moral responsibility firmly in place.

    Waller argues that belief in moral responsibility is not isolated but rather is a central element of a larger belief system; doubting or rejecting moral responsibility will involve major adjustments elsewhere in a wide range of beliefs and values. Belief in moral responsibility is one strand of a complex and closely woven fabric of belief, comprising threads from biology, psychology, social institutions, criminal justice, religion, and philosophy. These dense interconnections, Waller contends, make it very difficult to challenge the belief in moral responsibility at the center. They not only influence the philosophical arguments in favor of moral responsibility but also add powerful extraphilosophical support for it.

    • Hardcover $19.75 £15.99
  • Against Moral Responsibility

    Against Moral Responsibility

    Bruce N. Waller

    A vigorous attack on moral responsibility in all its forms argues that the abolition of moral responsibility will be liberating and beneficial.

    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.

    • Hardcover $45.00 £38.00