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Better Than Conscious?Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications For Institutions$
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Christoph Engel and Wolf Singer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195805

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195805.001.0001

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The Neurobiology of Individual Decision Making, Dualism, and Legal Accountability

The Neurobiology of Individual Decision Making, Dualism, and Legal Accountability

(p.343) 16 The Neurobiology of Individual Decision Making, Dualism, and Legal Accountability
Better Than Conscious?

Paul W. Glimcher

The MIT Press

There has been an increasing interest in neurobiological analyses of the causes of behavior among many practitioners of criminal law. In some institutional circles this has crystallized as an interest in providing a physical method for classifying the actions of human agents according to preexisting social–legal categories. The impetus driving this search for neurobiological classification tools stems from both the longstanding Western legal requirement that actors be held accountable only for those voluntary actions which are preceded by what is termed a culpable mental state and the longstanding legal difficulty in establishing culpable mental state at trial. Thus a pressing question for many legal practitioners is whether existing neurobiological techniques or data can be used to identify the socially defined categories that guide law and punishment. Based on modern epistemological views of natural scientists and neurobiological evidence, this chapter suggests that there is no meaningful sense in which the possible states of the brain can be reduced to a standard psycho–legal state. Current understanding suggests that at an empirical neurobiological level, the distinctions employed by the criminal justice system may be nearly meaningless.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, compelled behavior, decision making, free will, involuntary behavior, legal accountability, legal system, neuroscience, rational behavior

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