No Nonsense Neuro-law

Neuroethics 4 (3):195-203 (2011)
In Minds, Brains, and Norms, Pardo and Patterson deny that the activities of persons (knowledge, rule-following, interpretation) can be understood exclusively in terms of the brain, and thus conclude that neuroscience is irrelevant to the law, and to the conceptual and philosophical questions that arise in legal contexts. On their view, such appeals to neuroscience are an exercise in nonsense. We agree that understanding persons requires more than understanding brains, but we deny their pessimistic conclusion. Whether neuroscience can be used to address legal issues is an empirical question. Recent work on locked-in syndrome, memory, and lying suggests that neuroscience has potential relevance to the law, and is far from nonsensical. Through discussion of neuroscientific methods and these recent results we show how an understanding of the subpersonal mechanisms that underlie person-level abilities could serve as a valuable and illuminating source of evidence in legal and social contexts. In so doing, we sketch the way forward for a no-nonsense approach to the intersection of law and neuroscience
Keywords Personal/Subpersonal distinction  Neuroscience  Law
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    Norman Malcolm (1977). Memory and Mind. Cornell University Press.
    C. B. Martin & Max Deutscher (1966). Remembering. Philosophical Review 75 (April):161-96.

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