Brain Pathology and Moral Responsibility

In Matt King & Joshua May (eds.), Agency in Mental Disorder: Philosophical Dimensions. Oxford University Press (2022)
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Does a diagnosis of brain dysfunction matter for ascriptions of moral responsibility? This chapter argues that, while knowledge of brain pathology can inform judgments of moral responsibility, its evidential value is currently limited for a number of practical and theoretical reasons. These include the problem of establishing causation from correlational data, drawing inferences about individuals from group data, and the reliance of the interpretation of brain findings on well-established psychological findings. Brain disorders sometimes matter for moral responsibility, however, because they change an individual’s moral psychology in a way that is beyond their control. While control over psychological changes is not an excusing factor, brain disorders can mitigate moral responsibility because they confront individuals with new psychological deficits or urges for which their previous moral education and existing external and internal moral resources have not prepared them.



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Anneli Jefferson
Cardiff University

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References found in this work

Neuroethics: Challenges for the 21st Century.Neil Levy - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
Unprincipled virtue: an inquiry into moral agency.Nomy Arpaly - 2003 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry Frankfurt - 1971 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will. Oxford University Press.
The responsibility of the psychopath revisited.Neil Levy - 2007 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 14 (2):pp. 129-138.

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