Beyond Moral Responsibility to a System that Works

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Abstract

Moving beyond the retributive system requires clearing away some of the basic assumptions that form the foundation of that system: most importantly, the assumption of moral responsibility, which is held in place by deep and destructive belief in a just world. Efforts to justify moral responsibility typically appeal to some version of self-making, and that appeal is only plausible through limits on inquiry. Eliminating moral responsibility removes a major impediment to deeper inquiry and understanding of the biological, social, and environmental causes of both vicious and virtuous behavior. The resources for moving beyond the moral responsibility are already being developed in social democratic corporatist cultures as well as in workplace management models that nurture commitment and reject blame and shame. Without moral responsibility we must face the unpleasant fact that although punishment is sometimes unavoidable it is always unjust. That unpleasant fact motivates difficult but beneficial changes that minimize both the extent and the severity of punitive measures.

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