The Legal Self: Executive processes and legal theory

Consciousness and Cognition 20 (1):151-176 (2011)
Abstract
When laws or legal principles mention mental states such as intentions to form a contract, knowledge of risk, or purposely causing a death, what parts of the brain are they speaking about? We argue here that these principles are tacitly directed at our prefrontal executive processes. Our current best theories of consciousness portray it as a workspace in which executive processes operate, but what is important to the law is what is done with the workspace content rather than the content itself. This makes executive processes more important to the law than consciousness, since they are responsible for channeling conscious decision-making into intentions and actions, or inhibiting action.We provide a summary of the current state of our knowledge about executive processes, which consists primarily of information about which portions of the prefrontal lobes perform which executive processes. Then we describe several examples in which legal principles can be understood as tacitly singling out executive processes, including principles regarding defendants’ intentions or plans to commit crimes and their awareness that certain facts are the case(for instance, that a gun is loaded), as well as excusatory principles which result in lesser responsibility for those who are juveniles, mentally ill, sleepwalking, hypnotized, or who suffer from psychopathy.
Keywords responsibility  legal agency  executive processes  intention
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,360
External links
  •   Try with proxy.
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA

    View all 13 references

    Citations of this work BETA
    Similar books and articles
    John Dobson (2011). A Moral and Economic Defense of Executive Compensation. Business and Professional Ethics Journal 30 (1-2):59-70.
    Analytics

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index

    2010-10-25

    Total downloads

    28 ( #52,630 of 1,089,053 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    1 ( #69,801 of 1,089,053 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature


    Discussion
    Start a new thread
    Order:
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.