1st Edition

Responsibility Collapses Why Moral Responsibility is Impossible

By Stephen Kershnar Copyright 2024
    324 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Our worldview assumes that people are morally responsible. Our emotions, beliefs, and values assume that a person is responsible for what she thinks and does, and that this is a good thing. This book argues that this worldview is false. It provides four arguments for this conclusion that build on the free will and responsibility literatures in original and insightful ways:

    1. Foundation: No one is responsible because there is no foundation for responsibility. A foundation for responsibility is something for which a person is responsible but not by being responsible for something else
    2. Epistemic Condition: No one is responsible because no one fulfills the epistemic condition necessary for blameworthiness
    3. Internalism: If a person were responsible, then she would be responsible for, and only for, what goes on in her head. Most of the evidence for responsibility says the opposite
    4. Amount: No one is responsible because we cannot make sense of what makes a person more or less praiseworthy (or blameworthy)

    There is no other book that argues against moral responsibility based on foundationalism, the epistemic condition, and internalism and shows that these arguments cohere. The book’s arguments for internalism and quantifying responsibility are new to the literature. Ultimately, the book’s conclusions undermine our commonsense view of the world and the most common philosophical understanding of God, morality, and relationships.

    Responsibility Collapses: Why Moral Responsibility Is Impossible is essential reading for scholars and advanced students in philosophy, religious studies, and political science who are interested in debates about agency, free will, and moral responsibility.


    Part 1: Nature

    1. Nature

    Part 2: Impossibility

    2. Foundation

    3. Epistemic Condition

    4. Internalism

    5. Practical Reasoning

    Part 3: Other Theories

    6. Explaining Other Arguments

    7. Guidance Control

    Part 4: Amount of Responsibility

    8. Amount

    9. Aggregation

    Part 5: Implications

    10. Implications

    Part 6: Appendices

    Appendix One: Externalism and Counterfactuals

    Appendix Two: Externalism and Backtracking


    Stephen Kershnar is a distinguished teaching professor in the philosophy department at the State University of New York at Fredonia and an attorney. He focuses on applied ethics and political philosophy.