Against Moral Responsibility w/Dr Bruce Waller
Humanity has had to adapt to deep philosophical and indeed psychological changes over the last 500 years. With the knowledge that came from geology and astronomy, we’ve learned we are not at the center of the universe, nor even a significant part of the “all that is.” From biology and genetics we have learned that we are a part of the animal kingdom, apes with big brains.. brains which, themselves have been programmed by nature much as a computer is programmed.
And we have also learned that there is no reason, nor any evidence, for us to believe in supernatural realms or beings for the universe to have come into existence, or for humanity to have thrived. Nature is our mother, and only nature (and perhaps our own ignorance) can put us under.
And, in the last twenty years, we have explored perhaps the most complex, most delicate feature of the universe, the human brain…and consciousness itself. What we are learning now can arguably be thought of as the most significant of our many scientific achievements and perhaps the most dangerous idea.. that Free-Will is an illusion and all our thoughts and behaviors are caused by an intricate combination of our genetic heritage, our environment, and our social experiences. Whatever choices or decisions we make, or actions we take, there are reasons for which there is little we can do outside of allowing ourselves the experiences, and to learn from our wrong-steps.
But what does this do to our sense of morality – gleamed from either our religions or our secular philosophies? That will be the subject of today’s conversation with Dr Bruce Waller: Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Dr. Waller received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his books include Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues; Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict; You Decide!: Current Debates in Criminal Justice; And his latest, Against Moral Responsibility published by MIT Press.