Emotion, Neuroscience, and Law: A Comment on Darwin and Greene

3 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2011 Last revised: 26 Oct 2012

See all articles by John Mikhail

John Mikhail

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: February 14, 2011


Darwin’s (1871) observation that evolution has produced in us certain emotions responding to right and wrong conduct that lack any obvious basis in individual utility is a useful springboard from which to clarify the role of emotion in moral judgment. The problem is whether a certain class of moral judgments is “constituted” or “driven by” emotion (Greene 2008, p. 108) or merely correlated with emotion while being generated by unconscious computations (e.g., Huebner et al. 2008). With one exception, all of the “personal” vignettes devised by Greene and colleagues (2001, 2004) and subsequently used by other researchers (e.g., Koenigs et al. 2007) in their fMRI and behavioral studies of emotional engagement in moral judgment involve violent crimes or torts. These studies thus do much more than highlight the role of emotion in moral judgment; they also support the classical rationalist thesis that moral rules are engraved in the mind.

Keywords: emotion, neuroscience, law, intuition, computation, rules, crime, tort, battery, rape, murder, Darwin, Kant, Spencer, Greene

JEL Classification: D63, D64, K00, K13, K14

Suggested Citation

Mikhail, John, Emotion, Neuroscience, and Law: A Comment on Darwin and Greene (February 14, 2011). Emotion Review, Forthcoming, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-26, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1761295

John Mikhail (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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