Morse, Mind, and Mental Causation

Criminal Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming

U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2467094

28 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2014

See all articles by Michael S. Pardo

Michael S. Pardo

University of Alabama School of Law

Dennis Patterson

Rutgers University School of Law, Camden; University of Surrey - School of Law

Date Written: July 16, 2014

Abstract

Stephen Morse's illuminating scholarship on law and neuroscience relies on a "folk psychological" account of human behavior in order to defend the law's foundations for ascribing legal responsibility. The heart of Morse's account is the notion of "mental state causation," in which mental states (e.g., beliefs, desires, and intentions) cause behavior. Morse argues that causation of this sort is necessary to support legal responsibility. We challenge this claim. First, we discuss problems with the conception of mental causation on which Morse appears to rely. Second, we present an alternative account to explain the link between mental states, reasons, and actions (the "rational-teleological" account). We argue that the alternative account avoids the conceptual problems that arise for Morse's conception of mental causation and that it also undergirds ascriptions of legal responsibility. If the alternative succeeds, then Morse's conception of "mental state causation" is not necessary to support legal responsibility.

Keywords: folk psychology, mental states, reasons, human action, explanation, causation

Suggested Citation

Pardo, Michael S. and Patterson, Dennis, Morse, Mind, and Mental Causation (July 16, 2014). Criminal Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming; U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2467094. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2467094

Michael S. Pardo (Contact Author)

University of Alabama School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Dennis Patterson

Rutgers University School of Law, Camden ( email )

Camden, NJ 08102-1203
United States
856-225-6369 (Phone)
856-751-8752 (Fax)

University of Surrey - School of Law ( email )

United Kingdom

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