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Against Moral Responsibility Hardcover – October 14, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (October 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262016591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262016599
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

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)

Waller argues against the existence of moral responsibility, while defending the existence of free will.... If true, Waller's conclusion is enormously important.

(Metapsychology)

Waller takes an unusual position.... Whether or not the argument is ultimately persuasive, the author develops it with much detail, care, and attention to empirical data.

(The Philosopher's Magazine)

Provocative.... Waller has an impressive breadth of knowledge regarding free will and moral responsibility and makes many interesting and convincing points…This book will make readers think about moral responsibility in new ways that hopefully lead to a more healthy society.

(American Journal of Bioethics)

Waller has presented us with a forceful, rich, and interesting book arguing for a highly original position. It combines compatibilism on free will with hard determinism on moral responsibility, couple with an optimistic discussion of both the possibility for and the outcome of abolishing moral responsibility. I sincerely hope that with this book his views will receive the critical attention they merit.

(Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

An adroit survey of... analytic philosophers... [Waller] argues that... the degree of freedom that moral agents have is really far less than usually believed and is by no means equally shared. He makes a good case for this claim, and then goes on to argue for a much stronger claim, namely that we must reject... the social practice of rewarding or punishing other people for their moral or immoral behaviors.

(Journal of Moral Education)

The book presents a powerful case. Particularly refreshing and useful is Waller's connection of these philosophical debates with questions in sociology and politics. He argues persuasively that the rejection of moral responsibility shifts the focus, away from the individual and toward the social or systemic problems that cause immoral behavior.... This book has an importance that extends beyond narrow philosophical debates.

(Philosophy in Review)

Waller offers a compelling argument to the effect that compatibilism does not entail moral responsibility and that systems of moral responsibility are inherently unfair.... Waller's prose is easy to read, and his meticulous research runs the gamut from philosophy to neuroscience to cognitive psychology. As unorthodox as his thesis may be, Waller's argument cannot be dismissed easily and should be taken very seriously by all scholars interested in the nature of free will. Highly recommended.

(Choice)

Recalling Wolfgang Pauli's famous putdown of a fellow physicist's work as "not even wrong," we can appreciate the fact that a crisp, clear argument can illuminate the field by uncovering a tempting but heretofore unexamined falsehood and forthrightly asserting it. I cannot think of a better example that Waller's book, from which I have learned more than from the last dozen books and article on free will that I have read, a bounty of valuable insights all marshaled on behalf of a thesis that has never before been properly defended, and is in the end, in my opinion, indefensible -- but for reasons that are instructive. Waller has opened my eyes about my own project and other competing projects in the field.

(Daniel C. Dennett Naturalism.org)

Review

"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas W. Clark on April 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Note: This is an excerpt from a review called "Singling out the agent" posted at a website on worldview naturalism. Anyone interested in the current debate on moral responsibility and free will, and why it matters, should buy Waller's book.

In Against Moral Responsibility, Bruce Waller claims that although people generally meet standard requirements adduced for being morally responsible, we nevertheless *aren't* morally responsible; no one ever deserves praise or punishment. This of course is a shocking claim, contrary to commonsense, and to defend it Waller must take on the philosophical establishment, both the dominant compatibilists, who claim that being morally responsible is compatible with determinism, and the far fewer libertarians, who hold out hope for a human causal exceptionalism. Waller sets out to destroy, "root and branch," what he calls the moral responsibility system, which he sees as being fundamentally incompatible with science-based naturalism, morally indefensible, and deeply destructive by leading us to ignore or discount the causes of human behavior and the often harmful outcomes of holding people morally responsible.

Waller's case against the libertarians is straightforward and takes up relatively little space in his book: there's no good naturalistic account of how human agents could be first causes, or self-caused, in the way libertarian philosophers (and perhaps many ordinary folk) think is necessary for being morally responsible. There's no evidence for or logical coherence to contra-causal freedom; on a naturalistic view of ourselves, human agents can't be the ultimate originators of their character and actions in the miraculous, god-like way that, Waller suggests, originally justified the idea of moral responsibility and just deserts.
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By Brenda hamrick on March 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Waller writes as he teaches. I would truly love for him to use this book in one of his classes. He is awesome. This book is not an easy read, but it is good
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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
In the Kindle edition of this book, the left margin is wide, and the right margin is normal. This off-centered page setup is very distracting.
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