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The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility


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Mix a wealth of psychological knowledge with a keen philosophical mind, stir, and apply liberally to the intransigent belief that we are morally responsible agents. The result is Waller's provocative new book that argues that the foundation for the pervasive conviction that we, on some occasions, are morally responsible for our behavior is far less secure than we typically believe. Anyone even remotely interested in the question of whether we are ever truly deserving of praise and blame should explore Waller's accessible monograph. -- Mark Bernstein, Joyce and Edward E. Brewer Chair in Applied Ethics, Purdue University; author of On Moral Considerability Skillfully weaving discussions of philosophy, psychology, history, and sociology, and leavening the discussion with numerous real cases, Waller examines the various forces that make commitment to the system of moral responsibility so stubborn. The book constitutes an important challenge to those who think that philosophical arguments justify our holding one another morally responsible and should be required reading for everyone concerned with injustice. -- Neil Levy, Head of Neuroethics, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health Bruce Waller's new book is a powerful, informed, and thoroughly accessible indictment of the idea that blame and punishment is fair and just. Waller draws widely from sources in philosophy, psychology, criminology, and religion to make his case. His book challenges us to achieve clarity on the sources and justifications of our ingrained belief in moral responsibility, and to accept an alternative view of ourselves that is at once more accurate and more humane. This book should command a broad interdisciplinary audience. -- Derk Pereboom, Susan Linn Sage Professor in Philosophy and Ethics, Cornell University

About the Author

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


This book is a spirited and engaging broadside against ordinary belief in moral responsibility. Specifically, Bruce Waller challenges the entrenched belief that people bear the kind of moral responsibility for their conduct that would justify punishing them on the grounds that they deserve it. -Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

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