Thou shalt not commit a neuroscience.*

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4 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    Excellent points all. Here is a paper by Amanda Pustilnik that might be of interest:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1114250

    and abstract bit:

    “This Article shows that causally localizing what we call criminal violence to bits of the brain is highly scientifically contestable and epistemologically untenable. In viewing the criminal law-neuroscience relationship through the lens of history of science, this Article hopes to offer caveats to legal users of neurolaw and a realistic and constructive portrait of how current neuroscience might inform criminal law discourse about regulating violence.”

  2. No, retributivist approaches will not be stymied no matter how much we understand about the brain, even if it does turn out that we’re purely mechanical? Why? It’s a problem of levels. Consider computers:

    I’m typing these words into a box on a web site. But there aren’t “really” any words, any box, or any web site. All there are are certain patterns of high and low voltage (and high-impedance states, if you want to get really technical) across various transistors in a stupendously gargantuan array of such transistors flung across the entire Earth.

    But do we talk about the voltages? no.

    Do we talk about the 0s and 1s they represent? no.

    Do we talk about the machine code being run through the processors made up of those transistors? no.

    Do we talk about the PHP or C++ (or, or, or) that was compiled into that machine code? no.

    We talk about me typing into a box, because that high-level abstract metaphor is the most appropriate to human interaction with the computer system known as the internet. And we don’t expect legislatures to enact laws worded in terms of voltage patterns either. We expect them to speak in the same high-level metaphors we use day in and day out.

    So why when it comes to the brain do people expect that we’ll suddenly stop talking about it in terms of consciousness and free will even if it is reducible to a mechanism? And why do they expect the legal system will stop using the same metaphors it always has? Retributivism can be reworded in terms of neural nets just like these philosophers expect every other aspect of human behavior can be.

  3. Mike M says:

    If the death penalty is to remain in existence, is it reasonable to allow the “mentally retarded” the CONVENIENCE of protection under the 8th amendment. I think not… but that is just my opinion…

  4. Mike M says:

    If the death penalty is to remain in existence, is it reasonable to allow the “mentally retarded” the CONVENIENCE of protection under the 8th amendment? I think not… but that is just my opinion…