Pace University School of Law
Most observers agree that free will is central to our practices of blaming and punishment. Yet the conventional conception of free will is under sustained attack by the so-called determinists. Determinists claim that all of the events that take place in the universe – including human acts – are the product of causally determined forces over which we have no control. If human conduct is really determined by factors that we cannot control, how can our acts be the product of our own unfettered free will and what would that mean for the criminal law? The overwhelming majority of legal scholars and philosophers reply that, even if it turns out that human conduct is fully determined by forces over which they lack control, we ought to nevertheless believe in free will and thus continue to blame actors for engaging in wrongful conduct. They argue that we ought to rationalize free will in this manner because dispensing with free will is potentially catastrophic to human relationships, calling into question our judgments about blame and praise and, thus, about criminal responsibility and punishment. This Article contends that this rationalization is wrong and unnecessary. The fact of free will is not essential to maintaining a healthy society and a well functioning system of criminal justice. Although retribution could not be invoked as a reason for imposing punishment if humans are not capable of free choice, punishment could still be justified on consequentialist grounds. In a world without free will, the purpose of punishment would shift from giving to the offender what he deserved to protecting society from dangerous individuals who are nevertheless not to blame for their transgressions. Interestingly, this would likely lead to a more economically efficient and humane system of criminal justice that relies less on incarceration and more on less intrusive but equally effective methods of social control.
March 10-13, 2013 - The Jerusalem International Conference on Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Modifiability: The role of Cognitive Intervention in the shaping of wo/man
"Scientific advancements in conceptualization and technology make available new tools for professionals facing medical, psychological, educational, and societal problems facing human beings on a global scale. This conference brings together revolutionary developments in two disciplines--cognitive modifiability and the neurosciences. Neuroscience brings evidence that modifiability is possible, and cognitive modifiability shows how to make it happen! This meeting offers the opportunity for a worldwide gathering of scientists, practitioners, therapists, and educators who come from different professional perspectives but share common interests to explore and become familiar with the developments in these related fields. The common theme is modifiability. Revolutionary developments in the brain sciences support the theory and belief that basic human behaviors and functions can be modified."
For more on this conference, visit: www.brainconvention.net
Nature Editorial: Science takes the stand
Two legal rulings by the US Supreme Court last week will have significant implications for research into health-care outcomes and for how neuroscience is used in sentencing juveniles.
To read more, visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v487/n7405/full/487005a.html
On Monday, June 25, 2012, Justice Kagan announced the opinion for the Court in Miller v. Alabama
and Jackson v. Hobbs, holding in a five-to-four vote, that “the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.”
In footnote 5 of the opinion, the Court notes: “The evidence presented to us in these cases indicates that the science and social science supporting Roper’s and Graham’s conclusions have become even stronger. See, e.g., Brief for American Psychological Association et al. as Amici Curiae 3 (“[A]n ever-growing body of research in developmental psychology and neuroscience continues to confirm and strengthen the Court’s conclusions”); id., at 4 (“It is increasingly clear that adolescent brains are not yet fully mature in regions and systems related to higher-order executive functions such as impulse control, planning ahead, and risk avoidance”); Brief for J. Lawrence Aber et al. as Amici Curiae 12–28 (discussing post-Graham studies); id., at 26–27 (“Numerous studies post-Graham indicate that exposure to deviant peers leads to increased deviant behavior and is a consistent predictor of adolescent delinquency” (footnote omitted))”.
The Court also mentions work by MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience Members, Larry Steinberg and Elizabeth Scott (“Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence: Developmental Immaturity, Diminished Responsibility, and the Juvenile Death Penalty, 58 Am. Psychologist 1009, 1014 (2003)”) on page 8 in a discussion of Roper.
Link to the Supreme Court Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-9646g2i8.pdf
and check your regular news sources for this week’s extensive coverage of the opinion.
The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience distributes Neurolaw News, which highlights important items of interest for the neurolaw community. These include notifications of new publications, news of upcoming neurolaw conferences, and the like. To avoid inbox clutter, distributions occur approximately once every 2 months.
To subscribe to the listserv, please visit: http://www.lawneuro.org/listserv.php
For the latest edition of Neurolaw News, please visit: http://www.lawneuro.org/listserv.php#archives
New York Times, The Opinion Pages: Larry Steinberg participated in a virtual round-table discussion, Room for Debate: When to Punish, and When to Rehabilitate, where he commented on “Seeing Juveniles’ Maturity, and Immaturity”: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/06/05/when-to-punish-a-young-offender-and-when-to-rehabilitate/sentences-should-acknowledge-juveniles-maturity-and-immaturity
Larry Steinberg, member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, and distinguished university professor of psychology at Temple University, writes on What the Brain Says About Maturity in The Opinion Pages of the New York Times.
Register now for the 2012 Public Defender's Justice Summit in San Francisco
Former gang members, top law enforcement officials, leading neuroscientists and drug reform pioneers will gather for a frank and fascinating discussion at the 2012 Public Defender’s Justice Summit on Tuesday, May 29 at San Francisco Main Library.
The summit, JUSTICE ON TRIAL:
Gangs, Neuroscience and Drug Reform, will be held in the library’s Koret
Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free, but seating is limited.
All attendees must register at sfpublicdefender.org.
The Justice Summit is the premier criminal justice conference on the West Coast. This year’s lineup
focuses on the most hotly-debated subjects: gang violence, drug decriminalization and how neuroimaging is changing our ideas about criminal culpability.
The Justice Summit is co-sponsored by the Bar Association of San Francisco, Attorneys attending the
conference will earn 4 MCLE units.
9 a.m.: Registration
9:30 a.m.: Keynote Speaker: UCLA Professor Jorja
Leap, author of Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me About Violence, Drugs, Love
10 a.m. Panel I: Jumped In: Strategies to Reduce Gang
11:15 a.m. Panel II: The Brain on Trial: Is Free Will
12:30 p.m.: Lunch provided
1:30 p.m. Panel III: Drugs: From Felonies to Misdemeanors?
Moral & Criminal Responsibility and Neuroscience
Workshop 18-19th June, 2012
Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London AHRC ‘Science in Culture’ Project: Neuroscience and the Law – Free Will, Responsibility and Punishment.
Call for Abstracts
This workshop aims to bring together early-career researchers in law, philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology to explore in what way, if any, recent findings in neuroscience (broadly construed) can inform debates on the source of voluntary action and the related notions of moral and criminal responsibility.
Issues that might be addressed are: Should we hold criminals diagnosed with psychopathy less accountable for their crimes given that studies show that psychopaths have reduced moral judgment and/or empathy? Does evidence from neuroscience and behavioral genetics have any implications
for the scope of circumstances that are understood as “mitigating”? Does such evidence have any bearing on whether the purpose of punishment for criminal acts should be conceived as a matter of retribution or rehabilitation? Do the “timing experiments” by Benjamin Libet and others fundamentally undermine the voluntary control condition that many compatibilists claim is a condition for moral accountability? If so, does it in turn also undermine the condition for criminal responsibility?
Stephen Morse Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law
& Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry at the University of
Thomas Nadelhoffer Assistant Professor of Philosophy at
Abstract submission: We invite PhD students and early-career researchers from philosophy, law, neuroscience and psychology to submit abstracts for presentation. We welcome any submission that addresses responsibility in the three-way intersection between law, neuroscience, and philosophy. All extended abstract submissions should be no more than 1000 words and in PDF-format. They should also be properly prepared for blind refereeing. The abstract should state the primary discipline of your paper (e.g. philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, or law) and be sent to Marion Godman, email@example.com by May 28th
(***Note approaching deadline ***).
Successful applicants will be sent an invitation to attend by May 31st. We will pay speakers’ travel (within the UK) and accommodation costs. Anyone who applies but is not selected to present will be
welcome to attend the event free of charge, but we cannot subsidize travel and accommodation.
This meeting is organized as part of an AHRC ‘Exploratory Awards’ grant (‘Science in Culture’ Project: Neuroscience and Law Project – Free Will, Responsibility and Punishment). Organisation: Marion Godman (Institute of Philosophy, London) & Helen Beebee (University of Birmingham & Institute of Philosophy London)
For more information see: http://ahrcfreewill.wordpress.com/