The Promise of Neuroscience for Law: Hope or Hype?

In The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy 77-96 (David Boonin ed., 2018)

U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 18-36

Posted: 22 Oct 2018

See all articles by Stephen Morse

Stephen Morse

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

This chapter addresses the potential contributions of neuroscience to legal policy in general and criminal justice in particular. The central question is whether neuroscience is relevant to legal policy. The chapter begins with speculation about the source of claims for the positive influence of neuroscience. It then turns to the scientific status of behavioral neuroscience. The next section considers the two radical challenges to current policies that neuroscience allegedly poses: determinism and the death of agency. The penultimate section addresses the question of the specific relevance of neuroscience to legal doctrine, practice and institutions. The final section points to some areas warranting modest optimism. The general conclusion, however, is that neuroscience is scarcely useful at present but may become more relevant as the science progresses.

Keywords: Criminal justice policy, behavioral neuroscience, philosophy of action, responsibility, free will, determinism, folk psychology, mental states, mens rea, culpability, competency, functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI

Suggested Citation

Morse, Stephen J., The Promise of Neuroscience for Law: Hope or Hype? (2018). In The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy 77-96 (David Boonin ed., 2018); U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 18-36. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3269984

Stephen J. Morse (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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