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Criminal Acts And Basic Moral Equality, John A. Humbach Jan 2022

Criminal Acts And Basic Moral Equality, John A. Humbach

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

Modern criminal justice presupposes that persons are not morally equal. On the contrary, those who do wrong are viewed by the law as less worthy of respect, concern and decent treatment: Offenders, it is said, “deserve” to suffer for their misdeeds. Yet, there is scant logical or empirical basis for the law's supposition that offenders are morally inferior. The usual reasoning is that persons who intentionally or knowingly do wrong are the authors and initiators of their acts and, as such, are morally responsible for them. But this reasoning rests on the assumption that a person's mental states, such as …


Neuroscience, Justice And The "Mental Causation" Fallacy, John A. Humbach Jan 2019

Neuroscience, Justice And The "Mental Causation" Fallacy, John A. Humbach

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

Mental causation is a foundational assumption of modern criminal justice. The law takes it for granted that wrongdoers “deserve” punishment because their acts are caused by intentions, reasons and other mental states. A growing body of neuroscience evidence shows, however, that human behavior is produced by observable physiological activity in the brain and central nervous system--all in accordance with ordinary physical laws. Beyond these ordinary physiological interactions and processes, no hypothesis of mental causation is required to causally explain behavior.

Despite the evidence, neuroskeptics insist that intentions, reasons and other mental states can play a causal role in producing human …


Does Hard Incompatibilism Really Abolish ‘Right’ And ‘Wrong’? Some Thoughts In Response To Larry Alexander, John A. Humbach Mr. Mar 2017

Does Hard Incompatibilism Really Abolish ‘Right’ And ‘Wrong’? Some Thoughts In Response To Larry Alexander, John A. Humbach Mr.

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

In a challenge to recent writings of Derk Pereboom and Gregg Caruso,3 Larry Alexander makes the following claim: If one accepts the Pereboom-Caruso “hard incompatibilist” view of choice, which regards blame and retributive punishment as morally unjustified because free will is an illusion, then “normativity completely disappears.” In making this claim, Professor Alexander appears to hold that the moral distinction between right and wrong conduct (“normativity”) cannot effectively exist unless those who do wrong “deserve” to receive blame and punishment in response to their misbehavior. This is not, however, necessarily so.


International Criminal Law For Retributivists, Alexander K.A. Greenawalt Jan 2014

International Criminal Law For Retributivists, Alexander K.A. Greenawalt

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

Responding to the proliferation of international criminal tribunals during the last two decades, scholars have engaged in a rich debate about the normative foundations of international criminal law (“ICL”). The retributive theory of punishment--which justifies punishment based on the culpability of the accused, rather than by reference to its social benefits--has met with significant skepticism in these discussions. Some have argued that unique features of international criminal justice--for example, the extreme selectivity of punishment or the lack of certain social or political preconditions--are a poor match for retributive theory. Others have ignored retributivism altogether, or afforded the theory only passing …


Punishing Without Free Will, Luis E. Chiesa Jan 2011

Punishing Without Free Will, Luis E. Chiesa

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

This Article will argue that there are good moral reasons to conclude that the scientific plausibility of determinism ought to lead us to abandon the notion of free will. Contra P. F. Strawson and Moore, this Article suggests that rejecting free will does not undermine the human experience, and doing so is plausible and attractive because it would likely lead to more humane and efficient institutions of blaming and punishing.