Review Of "Responsibility And The Moral Sentiments" By R. J. Wallace

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Wallace (Univ. of Pennsylvania) argues that when we hold people morally responsible for their actions, we employ the reactive emotions of resentment, indignation, and guilt. Only if fair, however, are these reactions justified. We fairly hold people responsible provided that they are rationally competent--i.e., have the power to grasp moral reasons and control their conduct accordingly. Wallace shows how these two requirements are compatible with even "hard" determinism and fully justified without appeal to a metaphysically mysterious "free will." Through developing a line of argument originally introduced by P.F. Strawson's "Freedom and Resentment" in Free Will, ed. by Gary Watson (1982), Wallace's rigorously argued and clearly written book makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of moral emotions and their relation to questions of responsibility. The book compares favorably with Alan Gibbard's Wise Choices, Apt Feelings (CH, Oct'90) and Daniel C. Dennett's Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting (CH, Apr'85). Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above.


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