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Against Moral Responsibility$
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Bruce N. Waller

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016599

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016599.001.0001

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The Illusory Benefits of Moral Responsibility

The Illusory Benefits of Moral Responsibility

(p.133) 8 The Illusory Benefits of Moral Responsibility
Against Moral Responsibility

Bruce N. Waller

The MIT Press

This chapter discusses how advocates of moral responsibility usually resort to practical usefulness when arguing for or investigating about moral responsibility. This dependence on practical usefulness entails a system of moral responsibility that is maintained simply because it works. J. J. C. Smart offers the clearest account of this pragmatic justification of moral responsibility and the concept of reward and punishment. According to him, the system of reward and punishment does not work very well, but it works, and it is better than nothing. However, this chapter aims to demonstrate that this system is often more harmful than beneficial, it blocks better policies and deeper understanding, and—its benefits and detriments aside—it is fundamentally unfair.

Keywords:   moral responsibility, practical usefulness, J. J. C. Smart, pragmatic justification, reward, punishment

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