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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers whether the new sciences of the brain/mind, especially neuroscience and behavioural genetics, are likely to transform the law’s traditional concepts of the person, agency, and responsibility. The chapter begins with a brief speculation about why so many people think these sciences will transform the law. It reviews the law’s concepts of the person, agency and responsibility, misguided challenges to these concepts, and the achievements of the new sciences. It then confronts the claim that the brain/mind sciences prove that we are not agents who can guide our conduct by reason and thus cannot be responsible. It argues that this claim cannot be supported empirically or conceptually, and that no revolution in legal thinking is foreseeable. The chapter concludes by suggesting that the new sciences have little to offer the law at present, but in the future, they may contribute modestly to reforming doctrine, policy, and practice.

Keywords: Personhood, agency, responsibility, neuroscience, behavioural genetics, compatibilism, rationality, autonomy

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