On the Relevance of Neuroscience to Criminal Responsibility
Criminal Law and Philosophy, 2009
22 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2009 Last revised: 27 Jan 2010
Date Written: November 27, 2009
Various authors debate the question of whether neuroscience is relevant to criminal responsibility. However, a plethora of different techniques and technologies, each with their own abilities and drawbacks, lurks beneath the label ‘‘neuroscience’’; and in criminal law responsibility is not a single, unitary and generic concept, but it is rather a syndrome of at least six different concepts. Consequently, there are at least six different responsibility questions that the criminal law asks — at least one for each responsibility concept — and, I will suggest, a multitude of ways in which the techniques and technologies that comprise neuroscience might help us to address those diverse questions. In a way, on my account neuroscience is relevant to criminal responsibility in many ways, but I hesitate to state my position like this because doing so obscures two points which I would rather highlight: one, neither neuroscience nor criminal responsibility are as unified as that; and two, the criminal law asks many different responsibility questions and not just one generic question.
Keywords: Responsibility, Neuroscience, Criminal law, Psychology, Neurolaw
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