Section Description Provided by Instructor
Method of Evaluation: Response memos (2 per student) + Discussion Question memos (4 per student)
Law and neuroscience (sometimes ‘neurolaw’) is a relatively new field of study concerned with the intersection of different branches of law and neuroscientific findings about the strict correlation of mental functions and human behavior to brain mechanisms. Although the implications of neuroscientific thinking and knowledge for law and legal scholarship have raised a variety of issues, neurolegal disputes keep on focusing primarily on the impact of neuroscience on criminal responsibility and punishment. This seminar will explore and analyze critically some of these disputes.
Over 14 sessions, this seminar will consider three distinct sets of issues. The first concerns the potential impact of neuroscience on criminal responsibility and culpability-related doctrines. Notably, this part of the seminar will discuss the potential implications of the neuroscience of moral decision-making and self-control for the insanity and diminished capacity doctrines. This theoretical discussion will also be contextualized in the analysis of three contentious cases-study: 1) psychopathy, 2) interpersonal violence, and 3) drug-addiction. The second set of issues that will be discussed concerns the contexts for use of neuroscientific evidence in legal proceedings. We will analyze literature concerning the use neuroscientific tools and evidence: 1) to adjudicate criminal behavior, 2) to detect truth- and lie-telling in testimonial evidence; 3) to (re)determine sentencing; 4) to predict future antisocial conduct. Also, this part will consider neuroscientific studies on third-party punishment. Finally, the last set of issues concerns the impact of neuroscience on punishment. In this regard, we will discuss the impact of neuroscientific assumptions about the mind/brain relationship on the dominant theories of punishment (retributivism and consequentialism), as well as the neuroscientific contribution to moving correctional policies towards a socio-rehabilitative direction.
This interdisciplinary seminar examines the impact of neuroscientific advances on the adjudication of and criminal justice’s responses to criminal behavior. It considers research from social, cognitive and affective neuroscience, criminology, neuropsychiatry and clinical psychology in relation to issues of criminal responsibility and punishment, especially with regard to contentious classes of offenders. The seminar addresses critically efforts to identify neurobiological influences on offending behavior, as well as efforts to use neuroscientific methods in court in connection with the assessment of criminal responsibility and sentencing. Also, the seminar examines the contribution of neuroscience to contemporary debates in criminal justice, including how neuroscientific research about prosocial and offending behavior might be used to suggest alternative correctional approaches to conventional incarceration. The seminar will be framed within the primary learning objectives listed below.
Method of Evaluation
J.D. Writing Credit
Minor (upon consultation), Major (only upon consultation)
LLM Writing Project
(only upon consultation)