Capacitarianism, Responsibility and Restored Mental Capacities
TECHNOLOGIES ON THE STAND: LEGAL AND ETHICAL QUESTIONS IN NEUROSCIENCE AND ROBOTICS, pp. 41-62, Bibi van den, ed., The Netherlands, 2011
14 Pages Posted: 2 May 2011
Date Written: April 12, 2011
The capacitarian idea that responsibility tracks mental capacity underlies much of our thinking about responsibility. For instance, mental capacity assessments inform whether someone is a fully responsible person, what responsibilities they can be expected to observe, their degree of responsibility for what they did, and whether they can be expected to take responsibility and be held responsible in the sense of standing trial, being answerable, paying compensation and being punished. But what happens when mental capacity is restored through direct brain interventions? Specifically, can direct brain interventions aimed at mental capacity restoration help us to assess the responsibility of someone who becomes mentally ill subsequent to committing their crime or to hold them responsible, to expect them to take responsibility for what they did, to make them fully responsible and maybe even less irresponsible? I will argue that initially capacitarianism seems to strike difficulties in cases that involve direct brain interventions of this sort, or put another way, that responsibility does not seem to track restored mental capacities. However, I will also argue that most of these difficulties can be overcome once we take into account some of the other things that responsibility also hinges upon. In particular, I will argue that historical and normative considerations can explain why responsibility does not seem to track restored mental capacities, and thus why this is not something that undermines capacitarianism.
Keywords: capacitarianism, responsibility, direct brain interventions, therapy, justice
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