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. (shrink)
In this book, Bruce Waller attacks two prevalent philosophical beliefs. First, he argues that moral responsibility must be rejected; there is no room for such a notion within our naturalist framework. Second, he denies the common assumption that moral responsibility is inseparably linked with individual freedom. Rejection of moral responsibility does not entail the demise of individual freedom; instead, individual freedom is enhanced by the rejection of moral responsibility. According to this theory of "no-fault naturalism," no one deserves either blame (...) or reward.In the course of arguing against moral responsibility, Waller critiques major compatibilist arguments-by Dennett, Frankfurt, Strawson, Bennett, Wolf, Hampshire, Glover, Rachels, Sher, and others. In addition, the implications of denying moral responsibility-for individual freedom, for moral judgments and moral behavior, and for social justice-are examined; the supposed dire consequences of the denial of moral responsibility are challenged; and the benefits of denying moral responsibility are described. Author note: Bruce N. Waller, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio, is the author of Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict. (shrink)
Analogies come in several forms that serve distinct functions. Inductive analogy is a common type of analogical argument, but critical thinking texts sometimes treat all analogies as inductive. Such an analysis ignores figurative analogies, which may elucidate but do not argue; and also neglects a priori arguments by analogy, a type of analogical argument prominent in law and ethics. A priori arguments by analogy are distinctive, but--contrary to the claims of Govier and Sunstein-they are best understood as deductive, rather than (...) a special form of non deductive reasoning. (shrink)
Restorative Free Will examines free will as an adaptive capacity that evolved in humans and many other species, and restores free will to species excluded by claims of human uniqueness. Restorative Free Will recognizes the basic biological value of both libertarian and compatibilist elements of free will, and explains how these traditionally opposed accounts of free will capture an essential element of foraging animals' free will.
Moving beyond the retributive system requires clearing away some of the basic assumptions that form the foundation of that system: most importantly, the assumption of moral responsibility, which is held in place by deep and destructive belief in a just world. Efforts to justify moral responsibility typically appeal to some version of self-making, and that appeal is only plausible through limits on inquiry. Eliminating moral responsibility removes a major impediment to deeper inquiry and understanding of the biological, social, and environmental (...) causes of both vicious and virtuous behavior. The resources for moving beyond the moral responsibility are already being developed in social democratic corporatist cultures as well as in workplace management models that nurture commitment and reject blame and shame. Without moral responsibility we must face the unpleasant fact that although punishment is sometimes unavoidable it is always unjust. That unpleasant fact motivates difficult but beneficial changes that minimize both the extent and the severity of punitive measures. (shrink)
The city of Cork experienced a political odyssey between Easter 1916 and the end of 1918. Wartime policies conceived in London manifested themselves unexpectedly in Cork--The Defence of the Realm Act was used to repress political speech; deficit spending generated massive inflation; mandatory arbitration encouraged workers to join trade unions; food rationing panicked a country scarred by the Potato Famine; and military conscription generated virtual rebellion. As a result, the Cork public increasingly turned against the war. The book examines the (...) political situation in Cork prior to the Easter Rising; local reactions to the rebellion; the rapid creation of the Republican mass movement; the dramatic decline of the Irish Party; the explosion of anti-authority street rioting; the mobilization of women in the independence struggle; disturbances against venereal disease treatments and visiting American sailors; the emergence of radical trade unionism; agitation over the retention of local food supplies; the nationalist mobilization during the Conscription Crisis; and Sinn Féin's triumph in the 1918 General Election. (shrink)
Autonomy is good for you. A strong sense of competent self-control and effective choice-making promotes both physical and psychological well-being. Loss of autonomous control—and a sense of helplessness—causes depression, increased sensitivity to pain, greater vulnerability to disease, and death. Well established by a wide range of psychological and physiological studies, the positive effects of patient autonomy are well known to competent physicians, nurses, and therapists. Conscientious caregivers are thus moving beyond grudging acceptance of informed consent toward clinical respect for patient (...) autonomy. (shrink)
Informed consent has passed through three stages. The first paternalistic stage lasted for many centuries: The doctor's diagnosis and healing arts were kept secret, and informing patients was regarded as professionally and ethically wrong. Second came the legal stage, when the right of patients to make informed decisions concerning their own treatment was imposed by the courts and reluctantly tolerated by medical professionals. The third informed consent stage emerged more recently: the general therapy stage. The therapeutic benefits of informed consent (...) have been well established, and informed consent is widely recognized as an important element in sound medical practice. When patients are effectively informed and can exert knowledgeable control over their own treatment decisions and therapy processes, that enhances recovery, strengthens the immune system, promotes better pain tolerance, prevents depression, and encourages patient cooperation and fortitude in treatment, rehabilitation, and preventative procedures. As the medical community has absorbed greater knowledge of this research, informed consent has been recognized as both ethically essential and therapeutically sound: the hallmark of the current general therapy stage of informed consent. (shrink)
Philosophical tradition demands rational reflection as a condition for genuine moral acts. But the grounds for that requirement are untenable, and when the requirement is dropped morality comes into clearer view as a naturally developing phenomenon that is not confined to human beings and does not require higher-level rational reflective processes. Rational consideration of rules and duties can enhance and extend moral behavior, but rationality is not necessary for morality and (contrary to the Kantian tradition represented by Thomas Nagel) morality (...) cannot transcend its biological roots. Recognizing this helps forge a complementary rather than competitive relation between feminist care-based ethics and rationalistic duty-based ethics. (shrink)
Peter Woolcock, in Ruse's Darwinian Meta-Ethics: A Critique, argues that the subjectivist (nonobjectivist) Darwinian metaethics proposed by Michael Ruse (in Taking Darwin Seriously) cannot work, because the illusion of objectivity that Ruse claims is essential to morality breaks down when it is recognized as illusion, and there then remain no good reasons for acknowledging or following moral obligations. Woolcock, however, is mistaken in supposing that moral behaviour requires rational motivation. Ruse's Darwinian metaethical analysis shows why such objective support for morality (...) is neither plausible nor necessary; and when that is recognized, it can also be seen that Ruse's proposed illusion of moral objectivity is superfluous. (shrink)
The patient's right to informed consent is grudgingly acknowledged by medical professionals, firmly established in law, and brandished as a shibboleth by most bioethicists. But questions remain concerning genuine patient autonomy, and the doctrine of informed consent offers inadequate answers. In addition to the continuing controversy over what counts as “informed,” the passive acquiescence implied by “consent” seems a pale shadow of genuine autonomy.
The debate over free will has pittedlibertarian insistence on open alternativesagainst the compatibilist view that authenticcommitments can preserve free will in adetermined world. A second schism in the freewill debate sets rationalist belief in thecentrality of reason against nonrationalistswho regard reason as inessential or even animpediment to free will. By looking deeperinto what motivates each of these perspectivesit is possible to find common ground thataccommodates insights from all those competingviews. The resulting metacompatibilist view offree will bridges some of the differencesbetween (...) compatibilists and incompatibilists aswell as between rationalists andnonrationalists, and results in a free willtheory that is both more philosophicallyinclusive and more firmly connected tocontemporary research in psychology andbiology. (shrink)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better to be immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Since Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions first appeared, David Benatar's distinctive anthology designed to introduce students to the key existential questions of philosophy has won a devoted following among users in a variety of upper-level and even introductory courses.
Theories of autonomy divide into two conflicting categories: theories that emphasize freedom to choose among alternatives, and theories that focus on personal authenticity. This conflict can be resolved by recognizing the basic function of natural authenticity, and its deep roots in human and animal behavior. Authenticity functions to keep options open that might be too hastily abandoned. Thus forms a natural symbiotic union with autonomy as alternatives. Human authenticity is a special adaptation, but it is not different in kind from (...) the authenticity of many other species. My naturalistic account of authenticity avoids traditional problems concerning willing addicts and happy slaves and reaffirms the traditional link between authenticity and autonomous choices among alternatives. (shrink)
This book examines a nonconscious and profoundly harmful desire that is almost universally denied: the desire to be a god. Afflicting believers and nonbelievers alike, the desire is manifested in religious myths and throughout the history of philosophy.
People occasionally change their moral beliefs and principles, and they may experience such changes as occurring independently of their wishes. Moral realists argue that this phenomenon of moral conversion is evidence for moral realism, and against noncognitivism. However, contemporary noncognitivists can acknowledge such changes--including changes "against our wills"--and can account for the changes in a simpler and more plausible manner. If moral realism posits real moral facts to account for moral conversion the result will be an extreme and untenable inflation (...) of moral realist ontology. (shrink)
Two essential elements of free will—internal locus of control and confident self-efficacy—have been studied extensively by psychologists but neglected by philosophers. As a result of this neglect, philosophers have worked with a distorted view of free will. Existentialists exaggerate internal locus of control while undercutting self-efficacy; most contemporary philosophers have taken both internal locus of control and self-efficacy for granted, ignoring their importance and the problems generated by their absence. By taking advantage of psychological research on internal locus of control (...) and self-efficacy, this paper develops a richer and more realistic account of the value of free choice and the real threats to free will. (shrink)
This book makes effective use of contemporary moral psychology to elucidate some of the most challenging issues in contemporary ethics. The focus of the book is on individual moral integrity--its psychological development, its importance for a satisfactory individual moral life, the challenges it poses to traditional insistence on universalizability, the possibility of educating for such integrity, the necessity of such integrity as a starting point for moral argument. Indeed, a better title for the book might be On Developing Personal Moral (...) Integrity, for integrity--rather than responsibility--is certainly the central issue in the book. (shrink)