Neuroscience, Free Will, and Criminal Responsibility

In Walter Glannon, ed., Free Will and the Brain: Neuroscientific, Philosophical, and Legal Perspectives (Cambridge 2015).

U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-35

37 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2015

See all articles by Stephen Morse

Stephen Morse

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

This chapter argues that the folk-psychological model of the person and responsibility is not challenged by determinism in general or by neurodeterminism in particular. Until science conclusively demonstrates that human beings cannot be guided by reasons and that mental states play no role in explaining behavior, the folk-psychological model of responsibility is justified. This chapter discusses the motivations to turn to science to solve the hard normative problems the law addresses, as well as the law's psychology and its concepts of the person and responsibility. Then it considers the general relation of neuroscience to law, which I characterize as the issue of "translation." The limits of neurolaw are canvassed and the chapter argues that neurolaw poses no radical challenge to the concepts of the person and responsibility. The chapter is cautiously optimistic about the contribution that neuroscience may make to law in the near and intermediate term. The penultimate section examines some of the claims concerning responsibility made in other chapters in this volume followed by a brief conclusion.

Keywords: Criminal law, neurosciences, philosophy of mind, culpability, excuse, mitigation, behavioral causation, compulsion, competence, mental states, mens rea, intention, libertarian free will, voluntary action, compatibilism

Suggested Citation

Morse, Stephen J., Neuroscience, Free Will, and Criminal Responsibility (2015). In Walter Glannon, ed., Free Will and the Brain: Neuroscientific, Philosophical, and Legal Perspectives (Cambridge 2015).; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-35. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2700328

Stephen J. Morse (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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