Mechanical Choices: The Responsibility of the Human Machine

ISBN : 9780190863999

Michael S. Moore
616 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2020
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Mechanical Choices details the intimate connection that exists between morality and law: the morality we use to blame others for their misdeeds and the criminal law that punishes them for these misdeeds. This book shows how both law and morality presuppose the accuracy of common sense, a centuries-old psychology that defines people as rational agents who make honorable choices and act for just reasons. It then shows how neuroscience is commonly taken to challenge these fundamental psychological assumptions. Such challenges-four in number-are distinguished from each other by the different neuroscientific facts from which they arise: the fact that human choices are caused by brain events; the fact that those choices don't cause the actions that are their objects but are only epiphenomenal to those choices; the fact that those choices are identical to certain physical events in the brain; and the fact that human subjects are quite fallible in their knowledge of what they are doing and why. The body of this book shows how such challenges are either based on faulty facts or misconceived as to the relevance of such facts to responsibility. The book ends with a detailed examination of the neuroscience of addiction, an examination which illustrates how neuroscience can help rather than challenge both law and morality in their quest to accurately define excuses from responsibility.


Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter 1: Introduction

Part I: Criminal Law and the Morality of Ascribing Responsibility

Chapter 2: The General Structure of Criminal Law in Terms of Ascriptive Moral Principles

Part II: The Criminal Law's Suppositions About the Psychology of Persons

Chapter 3: Human Actions at the Root of Moral Wrongdoing and Criminal Law's Actus Reus

Chapter 4: Intention and Belief at the Root of Moral Culpability and Mens Rea

Chapter 5: Further Questions About the Basic Distinction Between Intention and Belief

Chapter 6: The Royal Road to the Criminal Law's Concept of the Psychology of Persons: The Insanity Defense

Part III: The Challenges to Criminal Law by Neuroscience

Chapter 7: The Challenging Data of Neuroscience and the Challenges Mounted From that Data

Part IV: The Hard Determinist Challenge

Chapter 8: The Libertarian, Fictionalist, and Compatibilist Responses to Hard Determinism

Chapter 9: Rescuing the Volitional Excuses from Compatibilism (The Overshoot Problem for Compatibilism)

PART V: The Epiphenomenalist Challenge

Chapter 10: The Initiation of the Epiphenomenalist Challenge in the Work of Benjamin Libet

Chapter 11: The Limited Compatibilism of Epiphenomenalism with Responsibility

PART VI: The Reductionist Challenge

Chapter 12: Nothing But a Pack of Neurons

Part VII: Neuroscience as the Helper rather than the Challenger of the Criminal Law

Chapter 13: The Potential Contributions of Neuroscience to our Understanding of Addiction

About the author: 

Michael S. Moore is Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Chair in Law at the University of Illinois and Co-Director of the Program in Law and Philosophy.

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