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Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience$
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Dennis Patterson and Michael S. Pardo

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198743095

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198743095.001.0001

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The Neuroscience of Volitional Excuse

The Neuroscience of Volitional Excuse

(p.179) 9 The Neuroscience of Volitional Excuse
Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience

Michael S. Moore

Oxford University Press

This chapter brings together major philosophical topics involving the mind, free will, action, morality, causation, and metaphysics in discussing the topic of the volitional excuse. Ranging across psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience, the chapter argues that the primary way to think about volitional excuses is in terms of counterfactual analyses. There is no simple move from neuroscience to a judgment about volitional excuse. Working through the possible counterfactuals in any given case cannot be avoided simply by focusing on neuroscientific data. The process is shot through with judgments about the degree to which the agent in question ‘could have done otherwise’. Scientific discoveries from neuroscience will not preclude the counterfactual inquiry and the difficult philosophical work it entails. The chapter of course sees a role for neuroscience in these proceedings, but finds it as yet underdeveloped for the purpose.

Keywords:   volitional excuse, neuroscience, counterfactual analyses, counterfactual inquiry, counterfactuals

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