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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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Unconscious Mens Rea: Lapses, Negligence, and Criminal Responsibility

Unconscious Mens Rea: Lapses, Negligence, and Criminal Responsibility

(p.161) 8 Unconscious Mens Rea: Lapses, Negligence, and Criminal Responsibility
Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience

Katrina L. Sifferd

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers arguments by Neil Levy for the proposition that direct conscious awareness is a prerequisite for responsibility. It argues that cases of negligent criminal harm indicate that Levy’s claim that moral responsibility requires synchronic conscious awareness of the moral significance of an act is too strict. Furthermore, the chapter claims that tracing conditions cannot be successfully used to bolster Levy’s account. Instead, current legal practices indicate that criminal responsibility requires the capacity for diachronic agency and self-control, not synchronic conscious control. This means that an agent may be responsible for harm related to lapses even if they at no point could have reasonably foreseen the possibility of causing criminal harm.

Keywords:   Neil Levy, direct conscious awareness, negligent criminal harm, synchronic conscious awareness, moral responsibility, criminal responsibility, diachronic agency, self-control

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