Neuroscience and the Paradox of Free Will
Recent neuroscience has made amazing progress in understanding why people choose to do what they do. Consumers buy certain products, voters support certain candidates, and people fall in love partly because of how their brains function. These insights lead many people to give up on free will and moral responsibility. They accept “My brain made me do it” as an excuse for all kinds of misbehavior in everyday life and criminal law. They ask whether we are justified in punishing addicts who take drugs, pedophiles who molest children, and psychopaths who rape and kill. If not, how should our legal system handle these problems? To address these questions, this class will discuss what neuroscience has discovered, what free will is, which brain conditions undermine moral responsibility, and how criminal law should be updated considering contemporary neuroscience.
Responsible Brains: Neuroscience, Law, and Human Culpability, by William Hirstein, Katrina L. Sifferd and Tyler K. Fagan
- Do humans ever act of their own free will? When or why not?
- Are addicts, pedophiles, or psychopaths morally responsible for what they do? Why or why not?
- Does neuroscience suggest that our criminal law system needs to be reformed in any way? How or why not?