The Moral Responsibility System
Whatever one thinks of the plausibility of belief in moral responsibility, it is clear that the belief in moral responsibility is much stronger than any arguments that can be given in support of moral responsibility. Examined critically, belief in moral responsibility appears atavistic: a belief that might make sense in a world of mysteries and miracles and deities, but not well suited for survival in a naturalistic scientific environment. And indeed, one of the main ways in which belief in moral responsibility is defended is by insistence that deeper scientific scrutiny of the causes of behavior should be avoided when we are considering questions of moral responsibility. The striking contrast between the powerful and widespread belief in moral responsibility and the weak grounds for that belief prompts an important question: Why is belief in moral responsibility so stubborn? What forces hold that belief firmly in place? The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility (MIT Press, 2015) attempts to answer that question, examining the breadth of the system that holds the central beliefs firmly in place and the deep (often nonconscious) assumptions and emotions that prop up the system (such as belief in human uniqueness, belief in a just world, fear of loss of free will and of personal integrity, the cultural and judicial system built around belief in moral responsibility, exaggerated belief in the ubiquitous powers of human reason). The moral responsibility system is not stubborn because it is plausible; rather, it seems plausible because it is so stubbornly entrenched.
The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility was the subject of a Syndicate discussion, with contributions from Ryan Lake, Gregg Caruso, Farah Focquaert, John Lemos, Saul Smilansky, and Michelle Ciurria. It can be found here
Seth Shabo reviewed The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews; the review can be found here. Daniel J. Brunson's review, in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, is here. James McBain's review, in Essays in Philosophy, is here. Gregg Caruso discussed the book in "Moral Responsibility and the Strike Back Emotion," in Psychology Today; it can be found here. Matthew Flummer's review, (in part) in Journal of Moral Philosophy, is here. Simon Wigley,'s review in Metapsychology Online Reviews is here. Geoffrey Hinchcliffe's review in European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms (first page only) is here.