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.
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.
Wallace's book is a major achievement...The book is extraordinarily well written, realizing a high degree of rigor without sacrificing accessibility.
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.
- 288 pages
- 0-5/8 x 5-5/8 x 8-15/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
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