Beyond Blame | Boston Review
From www.bostonreview.net - June 28, 2013
Forum: Beyond Blame
Would we better off in a world without blame?
Opening the Debate: Barbara H. Fried:
The philosophy of personal responsibility has ruined criminal justice and economic policy. It's time to move past blame.
In an article published shortly before his death, the political scientist James Q. Wilson took on the large question of free will and moral responsibility:
"Does the fact that biology determines more of our thinking and conduct than we had previously imagined undermine the notion of free will? And does this possibility in turn undermine, if not entirely destroy, our ability to hold people accountable for their actions?"
Wilson’s answer was an unequivocal no.
He has lots of company, which should come as a surprise given what scientific research into the determinants of human behavior has told us over the past four decades. Most of that research, as Wilson says, points to the same conclusion: our worldviews, aspirations, temperaments, conduct, and achievements—everything we conventionally think of as “us”—are in significant part determined by accidents of biology and circumstance. The study of the brain is in its infancy; as it advances, the evidence for determinism will surely grow.
One might have expected those developments to temper enthusiasm for blame mongering. Instead, the same four decades have been boom years for blame.
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