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The Future of Punishment$
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Thomas A. Nadelhoffer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199779208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199779208.001.0001

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Cognitive Neuroscience, Moral Responsibility, and Punishment

Cognitive Neuroscience, Moral Responsibility, and Punishment

(p.155) 7 Cognitive Neuroscience, Moral Responsibility, and Punishment
The Future of Punishment

Nancey Murphy

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the worry that contemporary findings in the cognitive neurosciences call moral and legal responsibility into question. I first focus on the question of whether and how science helps explain, and thereby justify, belief in responsibility, using Alasdair MacIntyre's account of morally responsible action. It may be expressed as follows: one is capable of moral responsibility if one has the capacity to evaluate that which moves one to act in light of some concept of the good. The central focus of the chapter, then, is a cognitive-science analysis of the intellectual and affective capacities that enable morally responsible action, with brief mention of neural systems and structures that are taken to subserve these capacities. On the basis of this analysis, I address briefly some of the arguments from neuroscience (by Benjamin Libet and John-Dylan Haynes) that are taken to call free will into question. Finally, I consider the implications of the chapter for the role of punishment, arguing that a restorative rather than retributive justice system has great potential for enhancing moral (and therefore legal) responsibility.

Keywords:   free will, responsibility, neuroscience, retributivism

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