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Vol 22 No 12 Dec 17/Jan 18

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Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments

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R. Jay WallaceAssistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania, USA

ISBN13: 9780674766228
ISBN: 0674766229
Published: September 1996
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Format: Hardback
Price: Out of print

This text argues that moral accountability hinges on questions of fairness: When is it fair to hold people morally responsible for what they do? Would it be fair to do so even in a deterministic world? To answer these questions, we need to understand what we are doing when we hold people morally responsible, a stance that Wallace connects with a central class of moral sentiments, those of resentment, indignation and guilt. To hold someone responsible, he argues, is to be subject to these reactive emotions in one's dealings with that person. Developing this theme, he offers an interpretation of the reactive emotions and traces their role in our practices of blame and moral sanction.;With this account in place, Wallace advances an 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 behaviour 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 responsibililty.;This book touches on issues of broad concern to philosphers, legal theorists, political scientists and anyone interested in the nature and limits of responsibility.

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