The Harvard Review of Philosophy Lecture
Moral Responsibility Skepticism
John Martin Fischer (University of California, Riverside)
Friday, October 7th
Emerson Hall, Room 305
The doctrine of "moral responsibility skepticism" has become increasingly influential. The basic tenet is that no one deserves to be morally blamed or punished based solely on what she has done, while possessing control of it and believing it is wrong. The proponents contend that no one ever has the relevant kind of control, and thus it would be unfair to apply desert-based blame and punishment. Further, they claim that adopting this view leads to better human relationships and mental health, and less cruel and unjust prisons.
I explain why I find this view highly implausible, but I also hold that it addresses some important facts about our system of criminal justice. I propose an alternative theory that, I argue, saves what is importantly right about the approach, but also adds in a crucial missing element. I call it "semi-retributivism."
About the Speaker
Professor Fischer’s main research interests lie in free will, moral responsibility, and both metaphysical and ethical issues pertaining to life and death. He is the author of The Metaphysics of Free Will: An Essay on Control; with Mark Ravizza, Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility; and My Way: Essays on Moral Responsibility. His recent work includes a contribution to Four Views on Free Will (in Blackwell’s Great Debates in Philosophy series) and three collections of essays all published by Oxford University Press: My Way: Essays on Moral Responsibility; Our Stories: Essays on Life, Death, and Free Will; and Deep Control: Essays on Free Will and Value. His undergraduate teaching includes an introductory ethics course, philosophy of law, theories of distributive justice, and philosophy of religion. He has also taught various courses on death and the meaning of life. His graduate teaching has primarily focused on free will, moral responsibility, and the metaphysics of death (and the meaning of life). Fischer is currently (as of July 1, 2012) serving as President of the American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, and also Project Leader for The Immortality Project, a major grant supported by the John Templeton Foundation. (Bio from Prof. Fischer's UC Riverside faculty profile)
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