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.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. 1. Moral Responsibility
  3. 2. The Basic Argument against Moral Responsibility
  4. 3. Rescuing Free Will from Moral Responsibility
  5. 4. Hierarchical Free Will and Natural Authenticity
  6. 5. Moral Responsibility in the Gaps
  7. 6. Taking Responsibility
  8. 7. Responsibility for the Self You Make
  9. 8. The Illusory Benefi ts of Moral Responsibility
  10. 9. Character-Fault and Blame-Fault
  11. 10. What Does Not Follow from the Denial of Moral Responsibility: Living Morally without Moral Responsibility
  12. 11. The Moral Responsibility System
  13. 12. Begging the Question for Moral Responsibility
  14. 13. Does Moral Responsibility Promote Respect?
  15. 14. Creative Authorship without Ultimate Responsibility
  16. 15. A World without Moral Responsibility
  17. 16. Is It Possible to Eliminate Moral Responsibility?
  18. Notes
  19. References
  20. Index