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Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility$
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Nicole A. Vincent

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199925605

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925605.001.0001

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Moral Responsibility and ConsciousnessTwo Challenges, One Solution

Moral Responsibility and ConsciousnessTwo Challenges, One Solution

Chapter:
(p.163) 7 Moral Responsibility and ConsciousnessTwo Challenges, One Solution
Source:
Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility
Author(s):

Neil Levy

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925605.003.0007

Until recently, most philosophers seem implicitly to have assumed that consciousness is necessary for moral responsibility; this is, moreover, an assumption that seems built into the law. Under the pressure of scientific evidence and independent philosophical argument, some philosophers now reject that assumption. Against these philosophers, I argue that we need to be conscious of the facts that make our actions morally significant in order to be morally responsible for them. I present two separate defences of this claim. First, I argue that actions caused by unconscious attitudes do not express good or ill will toward others. Second, I argue that such actions do not express our evaluative agency. Finally, I turn to some alleged empirical evidence against the claim that we can be conscious of our volitions, and show how the defence offered is immune to this challenge.

Keywords:   consciousness, moral responsibility, reactive attitudes, libet, law

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