BLR  Vol.6 No.2 , June 2015
The Mystery of Freedom and Neurolaw
Author(s) Adrian Sgarbi
ABSTRACT
In the case of Steward Mach. Co. v. Davis, Judge Benjamin Nathan Cardozo said that “Till now the law has been guided by a robust common sense which assumes the freedom of the will as a working hypothesis in the solution of its problems”. This hypothesis, which has previously been defended almost wholly within the confines of philosophical reflections on human responsibility, now seems to be undergoing a new wave of considerations. This is because neuroscience has been brought to bear in court proceedings in order to challenge the existence of human free will, in cases of both civil and criminal law. In the media, to a greater or lesser degree, various specialists have published the results of all kinds of experiments along with diagrams and graphs, technical advice and new machines to back up their claims. Currently, the use of some of these techniques in court and their lack of sustainability in many situations has, in turn, been emphasized, especially in the context of judicial proof (and reasonable doubt). In this sense, we can say that the issue of free will has been considered, but not always clearly, on three different levels: as a problem of description, of substance or of prescription. At the descriptive level is the question of what exactly we mean when we talk about free will. On the substantive level is the question of whether or not human beings actually possess this quality called free will. And finally, on the prescriptive level is the question of what we do with this knowledge. In this article, we offer an analysis of the problematic relationships between these three levels, beginning with a critical look at certain descriptive positions. In the end, it is suggested that these isolated descriptions, whether in the field of neuroscience, or philosophy, have led to an impasse whose effect is that the assertion that freedom in human behaviour is an illusion, and free will, a great mystery. As a possible way out, we present three modifications to the debate in order to extend its intelligibility beyond the boundaries of the legal profession.

Cite this paper
Sgarbi, A. (2015) The Mystery of Freedom and Neurolaw. Beijing Law Review, 6, 133-146. doi: 10.4236/blr.2015.62014.
References
[1]   Anon (2002). The Future of Mind Control. People Already Worry about Genetics. They Should Worry about Brain Science Too. The Economist, 23 May 2002.

[2]   Austin, J. L. (1955). A Plea for Excuses. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 57, 1-30.

[3]   Bayon, J. C. (1991). La normatividad del derecho: Deber jurídico y razones para la acción (The Normativity of Law: Legal Duty and Reasons for Action). Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales.

[4]   Belcher, A., & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2010). Neurolaw. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1, 18-22.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wcs.8

[5]   Bobbio, N. (1977). Le sanzioni Positive. Milan: Comunità.

[6]   Caro, M. D. (1998). Determinismo e libero arbitrio: Rinascita di una controversia. In M. D. Caro (Ed.), Caso, Necessità, Libertà (pp. 167-195). Napoles: CIEN.

[7]   Chomsky, N. (1975). Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon Books.

[8]   Chorvat, T., & McCabe, K. (2004). The Law and the Brain. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 359, 1727-1736.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2004.1545

[9]   Davidson, D. (1995). Libertad Para Actuar. In D. Davidson (Ed.), Ensayos sobre Acciones y Sucesos (pp. 85-106). México: Crítica [English Version: Davidson, D. (1973) Freedom to Act. In D. Davidson (Ed.), Essays on Actions and Events (pp. 21-42). Oxford: Oxford University Press (First published 1980).]

[10]   Eagleman, D. (2011). The Brain on Trial. The Atlantic Magazine. July/August.

[11]   Frankfurt, H. G. (1971). Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person. The Journal of Philosophy, 68, 5-20.
http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2024717

[12]   Gazzaniga, M. S., & Steven, M. S. (2005). Neuroscience and the Law. Scientific American Mind, 16, 42-49.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/scientificamericanmind0405-42

[13]   Goodenough, O. R., & Prehn, K. (2004). A Neuroscientific Approach to Normative Judgment in Law and Justice. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359, 1709-1726.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2004.1552

[14]   Hart, H. L. A. (1958). Legal Responsibility and Excuses. In S. Hook (Ed.), Determinism and Freedom in the Age of Modern Science (pp. 80-93). New York: New York University Press.

[15]   Hotz, R. L. (2009). The Brain, Your Honor, Will Take the Witness Stand. The Wall Street Journal.

[16]   Inwagen, P. V. (1983). An Essay on Free Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[17]   Kahane, H. (1983). Thinking about Basic Beliefs. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

[18]   Kane, R. (1996). The Significance of Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press.

[19]   Kane, R. (2007). Libertarianism. In J. M. Fischer, R. Kane, D. Pereboom, & M. Vargas (Eds.), Four Views on Free Will (pp. 5-43). Malden: Blackwell.

[20]   Kelsen, H. (1957). The Law as a Specific Social Technique. In H. Kelsen (Ed.), What Is Justice? Justice, Law, and Politics in the Mirror of Science; Collected Essays (pp. 231-256). Berkeley: University of California Press.

[21]   Kershaw, S. (2002). The Hunt for a Sniper: The Dead. Escaping the Grip of Cancer, Only to Die at a Sniper’s Hand. The New York Time, 16 October 2002.

[22]   Kiefer, F. (1994). Modality. In R. E. Asher (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (pp. 2515-2520). Oxford: Pergamon Press.

[23]   Kistler, M. (1999). Causation and Laws of Nature. New York: Routledge.

[24]   Lane, C. (2005). 5-4 Supreme Court Abolishes Juvenile Executions. The Washington Post, 2 March 2005.

[25]   Lewis, D. (1981). Are We Free to Break the Laws? Theoria, 47, 113-121.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-2567.1981.tb00473.x

[26]   Liptak, A. (2005). Supreme Court Rule on Executing Young Killers. The New York Times, 4 January 2005.

[27]   Liptak, A. (2010). Justices Limit Life Sentences for Juveniles. New York Times, 17 May 2010.

[28]   Locke, J. (1690). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. E-Book.

[29]   McGinn, C. (1999). The Mysterious Flame. New York: Basic Books.

[30]   Moya, C. J. (1997). Libertad, responsabilidad y razones morales. Isegoría, 17, 59-71.

[31]   Nagel, T. (1986). The View from Nowhere. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Spanish Transl. (1996) Una visión de ningún lugar. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica.)

[32]   Nichols, S. (2004). The Folk Psychology of Free Will: Fits and Starts. Mind & Language, 19, 473-502.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0268-1064.2004.00269.x

[33]   Nino, C. S. (1980). Los límites de la responsabilidad penal: Una teoría liberal del delito. Buenos Aires: ASTREA.

[34]   Nino, C. S. (1987). Introducción a la filosofía de la acción humana. Buenos Aires: Universitaria de Buenos Aires.

[35]   O’Connor, T. (1993). Alternative Possibilities and Responsibility. Southern Journal of Philosophy, 31, 345-372.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.2041-6962.1993.tb01726.x

[36]   O’Connor, T. (1993). Indeterminism and Free Agency: Three Recent Views. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 53, 499-526.
http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2108078

[37]   O’Connor, T. (2000). Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press.

[38]   Overbye, D. (2007). Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don’t. The New York Times, 2 January 2007.

[39]   Pettit, P. (2001). A Theory of Freedom: From the Psychology to the Politics Agency. Cambridge: Polity Press.

[40]   Rosen, J. (2007). The Brain on the Stand: How Neuroscience Is Transforming the Legal System. The New York Times Magazine, 11 March 2007.

[41]   Ross, A. (1975). On Guilt, Responsibility and Punishment. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

[42]   Saul, S. (2006). The Ambien Case—Some Sleeping Pill Users Range Far Beyond Bed. The New York Times, 8 March 2006.

[43]   Schauer, F. (2010). Can Bad Science Be Good Evidence? Cornell Law Review, 95, 1191-1219.

[44]   Schlick, M. (1939). Problems of Ethics. New York: Prentice-Hall.

[45]   Sinnot-Armstrong, W., Roskies, A., Brown, T., & Murphy, E. (2008). Brain Images as Legal Evidence. Episteme, October 2008 Issue.

[46]   Smilansky, S. (2000). Free Will and Illusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[47]   Smilansky, S. (2001). Free Will: From Nature to Illusion. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 101, 71-95.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0066-7372.2003.00022.x

[48]   Sober, E. (2004). Core Questions in Philosophy: A Text with Readings. New York: Prentice Hall.

[49]   Strawson, P. F. (1962). Freedom and Resentment. In G. Watson (Ed.), Free Will (pp. 187-211). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[50]   Von Wright, G. H. (1951). An Essay on Modal Logic. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

[51]   Von Wright, G. H. (1963). The Varieties of Goodness. London: Routledge & Keagan.

[52]   Von Wright, G. H. (1974). Causality and Determinism. Woodbridge Lecture (October and November of 1972).

[53]   Von Wright, G. H. (1976). Determinism and the Study of Man. In J. Manninen, & R. Tuomela (Eds.), Essays on Explanation and Understanding (pp. 415-435). Dordrecht: Reidel Publishing.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-1823-4_18

[54]   Von Wright, G. H. (1984). Of Human Freedom. The Tanner Lectures of Human Values.

[55]   Weatherford, R. C. (2005). Determinism. In T. Honderich (Ed.), The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (pp. 194-196). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[56]   Wolf, S. (1981). The Importance of Free Will. Mind, 90, 386-405.

 
 
Top