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Pace University

2019

Science and Technology Law

Mental causation

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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 …