Criminal Law and Common Sense: An Essay on the Perils and Promise of Neuroscience
35 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2015 Last revised: 22 Apr 2016
Date Written: 2015
This article is based on the author’s Barrock Lecture in Criminal Law presented at the Marquette University Law School. The central thesis is that the folk psychology that underpins criminal responsibility is correct and that our commonsense understanding of agency and responsibility and the legitimacy of criminal justice generally are not imperiled by contemporary discoveries in the various sciences, including neuroscience and genetics. These sciences will not revolutionize criminal law, at least not anytime soon, and at most they may make modest contributions to legal doctrine, practice, and policy. Until there are conceptual or scientific breakthroughs, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.
Keywords: Criminal law, neurosciences, philosophy of mind, culpability, excuse, mitigation, behavioral causation, compulsion, mental states, mens rea, intention, libertarian free will, causal theory of action, compatibilism
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