Responsibility And The Moral Sentiments

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Overview


R. Jay Wallace advances a powerful and sustained argument against the common view that accountability requires freedom of will. Instead, he maintains, the fairness of holding people responsible depends on their rational competence: the power to grasp moral reasons and to control their behavior accordingly. He shows how these forms of rational competence are compatible with determinism. At the same time, giving serious consideration to incompatibilist concerns, Wallace develops a compelling diagnosis of the common assumption that freedom is necessary for responsibility.
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Editorial Reviews

Philosophical Review

This is an excellent book. It is innovative in scope and carefully argued throughout. [It] recasts the debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists as a normative debate about the conditions under which it is fair to hold a person morally responsible...Wallace's book is an intriguing and demanding piece that merits the attention of anyone working on these topics.
— Michael McKenna

Journal of Philosophy

Wallace's book is a major achievement...The book is extraordinarily well written, realizing a high degree of rigor without sacrificing accessibility.
— Paul Benson

Philosophical Review - Michael McKenna
This is an excellent book. It is innovative in scope and carefully argued throughout. [It] recasts the debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists as a normative debate about the conditions under which it is fair to hold a person morally responsible...Wallace's book is an intriguing and demanding piece that merits the attention of anyone working on these topics.
Journal of Philosophy - Paul Benson
Wallace's book is a major achievement...The book is extraordinarily well written, realizing a high degree of rigor without sacrificing accessibility.
Annette Baier
This beautifully organized and lucidly argued book might be taken as a model of how a sustained philosophical argument should proceed. Wallace's thesis is that our practices of holding persons responsible for their choices and actions, and reacting to those that offend against moral norms with blame, indignation or resentment, make perfectly good sense, even if determinism is true. This is an old topic, and one might well be initially sceptical, as I was, that anything new could be said to illuminate it. But I was soon gripped by the sheer dialectical brilliance of Wallace's treatment of it, and his careful attempt to explain what he calls 'the seductiveness of incompatibilism,' that is, of the view that he is showing to lack sufficient basis.
Philosophical Review
This is an excellent book. It is innovative in scope and carefully argued throughout. [It] recasts the debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists as a normative debate about the conditions under which it is fair to hold a person morally responsible...Wallace's book is an intriguing and demanding piece that merits the attention of anyone working on these topics.
— Michael McKenna
Journal of Philosophy
Wallace's book is a major achievement...The book is extraordinarily well written, realizing a high degree of rigor without sacrificing accessibility.
— Paul Benson
Booknews
Argues that when we hold someone morally responsible for their actions we are subject to our own emotions of resentment, indignation, and guilt in our dealings with that person. Within that framework, explores whether it is fair to blame or condemn someone in a deterministic world, and concludes that accountability does not require freedom of will. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674766235
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/8/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

R. Jay Wallace is Professor of Philosophy at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

The Problem

The Solution

Prospectus

Emotions and Expectations

The Approach Sketched

Narrowing the Class

Reactive and Nonreactive, Moral and Nonmoral

Irrational Guilt

Responsibility

Responsibility, Blame, and Moral Sanction

Responsibility and the Reactive Emotions

The Reactive Account and Moral Judgment

Methodological Interlude

Understanding the Debate

Strawson's Arguments

Fairness

Strategies

Blameworthiness and the Excuses

Excuses and Intentions

Qualities of Will

A Typology of Excuses

Determinism and Excuses

Accountability and the Exemptions

Exemptions and Abilities

Exemptions: Some Cases

Determinism and Rational Powers

Comparisons and Contrasts

The Lure of Liberty

Avoidability and Harm

Opportunity and Possibility

Difficulty and Control

Oughts and Cans

Conclusion

Appendix: Further Emotional Vicissitudes

Appendix: Alternate Possibilities

Index

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