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November 4, 2010

"Memory and Punishment"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting looking new piece from O. Carter Snead that is now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article is the first scholarly exploration of the implications of neurobiological memory modification for criminal law.  Its point of entry is the fertile context of criminal punishment, in which memory plays a crucial role.  Specifically, this article will argue that there is a deep relationship between memory and the foundational principles justifying how punishment should be distributed, including retributive justice, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, moral education, and restorative justice.

For all such theoretical justifications, the questions of who and how much to punish are inextricably intertwined with how a crime is remembered — by the offender, by the sentencing authority, and by the broader community.  Because this is so, new neurobiological techniques to modify memory — including interventions to erase some or all memory, to dampen the emotional/affective content of memory, and to enhance the duration and intensity of memory — pose, in principle, special challenges for the just and effective distribution of punishment.  This article identifies and analyzes the substance and contours of these challenges. It is meant to prepare the necessary groundwork for future scholarship on how the law, as enacted, enforced, and interpreted, should respond (if at all) to such concerns.

November 4, 2010 at 07:54 AM | Permalink


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Law school erases all memory of high school World History and of freshman Western Civ 101, especially the sections on Scholasticism. It indoctrinates its cult recruits into supernatural core legal doctrines derived from the faith of a church. These atavistic, idiotic, psychotic doctrines are accepted without question, and account for the utter failure of every goal of every law subject. Dissent is crushed by the cult hierarchy. The lawyers here will have no idea to what I am referring, having had their memories erased.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 4, 2010 9:07:44 AM

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