« Another SCOTUS summary reversal again stresses AEDPA deference | Main | Why the wasteful(?) Eighth Circuit affirmance of FSA pipeline sentence with Hill and Dorsey pending? »

December 12, 2011

Deep thoughts about thoughts and punishment

Via SSRN, I just saw this interesting new article titled "Neuroscience, Normativity, and Retributivism" by Michael Pardon and Dennis Patterson, which comes with this abstract:

Advocates for the increased use of neuroscience in law have made bold and provocative claims about the power of neuroscientific discoveries to transform the criminal law in ways large and small.  Perhaps the boldest and most provocative of these claims are made in an influential article by Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen.  They claim that neuroscience will reveal that criminal defendants are not morally responsible for their actions and that this revelation will thereby undermine retributivist justifications for criminal punishment. In the process of resolving previously intractable debates between consequentialism and retributivism, neuroscience will also, they contend, resolve age-old debates about free will.

In this essay, we discuss several serious problems with their argument. We maintain that no neuroscientific discoveries will lead to the sorts of changes predicted by Greene and Cohen and, even if they did, those changes would not be the product of neuroscientific insight but result from unwarranted and problematic inferences which ought to be resisted 

December 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Deep thoughts about thoughts and punishment:


On neuroscience and utilitarianism...


The next study might recognize a parallel between neocortically damaged individuals and those who have undergone "professional" training - particularly in law schools.

Posted by: anon | Dec 12, 2011 12:41:23 PM

Back in the day William James caustically called what Greene and Cohen are doing "brass instrument psychology." By adding 'neuro' as a prefix and doing psychology with silicon we moderns now have achieved a state of pure enlightenment, ascended to heaven, and illuminated our glory to all past and future generations.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 12, 2011 2:10:55 PM

Anon: Please comment more often. You are much needed here.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 13, 2011 7:24:41 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB