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Neuroscience, Normativity, and Retributivism

Pardo, Michael S. and Patterson, Dennis (2013) Neuroscience, Normativity, and Retributivism In: The Future of Punishment. Oxford Series in Neuroscience, Law, and Philosophy . Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199779208

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We examine two recent challenges to retribution-based justifications for criminal punishment based on neuroscientific evidence. The first seeks to undermine retributivism because of the brain activity of subjects engaged in punishment decisions for retributive (as opposed to consequentialist) reasons. This challenge proceeds by linking retributivism with deontological moral theories and the brain activity correlated with deontological moral judgments. The second challenge seeks to undermine retributivism by exposing, through neuroscientific information, the purportedly implausible foundation on which retributivism depends: one based on free will and folk psychology. We conclude that neither challenge succeeds. The first challenge fails, in part, because the brain activity of punishers does not provide the appropriate criteria for whether judgments regarding criminal punishment are justified or correct. Moreover, retributivism does not necessarily depend on the success or failure of any particular moral theory. The second challenge fails because neuroscience does not undermine the conceptions of free will or folk psychology on which retributivism depends. Along the way, we point out a number of faulty inferences and problematic assumptions and presuppositions involved in these challenges to retributivism.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Law
Authors :
Pardo, Michael S.
Editors :
Nadelhoffer, Thomas A.
Date : 25 April 2013
Uncontrolled Keywords : criminal punishment, retributivism, neuroscience, deontology, free will, folk psychology
Depositing User : Karen Garland
Date Deposited : 07 Dec 2017 15:50
Last Modified : 16 Jan 2019 19:05

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