Video: Do we carry no responsibility for our actions?

Is moral responsibility a mere illusion? Massimo Pigliucci, Galen Strawson and Sarah Garfinkel debate the essence of innocence and guilt. (Watch the full debate here.)

Some argue behaviour is a product of our genes. Others that upbringing and environment play the primary role in determining who we are. So do we carry no responsibility for our actions? Courts have on occasion made judgments in this light. In 2006 Bradley Waldroup was acquitted of murder because he was found to have an unusual variant of a ‘warrior gene’ and to have been abused as a child. Is responsibility for our actions an illusion? And should we as a result abandon moral responsibility to build a fairer world? Or is the notion that our actions are determined by our genes, our upbringing or some combination a dangerous mistake? Many want to have it both ways: we are the outcome of our genes and upbringing but also responsible for our actions, but how is this possible?

Eminent philosopher and literary critic Galen Strawson, Stoic philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, and neuroscientist Sarah Garfinkel debate the essence of innocence and guilt. Hosted by novelist Joanna Kavenna.

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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