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note on neuroscience and law
March 11, 2007 (amended April 8)


The Brain on the Stand,” The New York Times Magazine, March 11, provides a good beginning for understanding relations of contemporary neuroscience (re: free will) and law (re: responsibility for action).

This relationship is a keynote of Habermas’ recent essay on free will, responsibility, and philosophy of mind in Philosophical Explorations, 10:1 (free download). That essay moves from the problem of culpability in law (“free will” in light of neuroscience) through considerations of epistemological naturalism to prospect a general perspective on mind in nature. The PE issue includes response to Habermas by John Searle, who recently published Freedom And Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, And Political Power (Columbia UP, 2006) and contributed to Neuroscience & Philosophy: brain, mind, & language (Columbia UP, 2007).

Relatedly, recent neuroscience has inspired important controversy about the relations of intentionality to free will and law, Does Consciousness Cause Behavior? (MIT, 2006). Neuroscience researcher Michael Gazzaniga has focused on the implications of neuroscience for law in his book, The Ethical Brain.

This page is a placeholder for this leading context in bioethics that I want to pursue further.


September 1, 2014

Seven years later, the topic remains as engaging for me as ever. But further reading, other projects, employment, and very ambitious designs postponed this project and many others.