Moral and Legal Responsibility and the New Neuroscience

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter argues that neuroscience is largely irrelevant if the concept of responsibility is properly understood and evaluated. It begins with a positive description of the dominant conception of personhood and responsibility in Western law and morality. It then considers and rejects the challenge to this conception that any materialist scientific understanding of behavior, including neuroscientific explanation, creates. It argues that unless brain science evolves to such a stage that it radically undermines current conceptions of personhood, the brain will largely be irrelevant to ascriptions of moral and legal responsibility. The chapter concludes by returning to Roper and suggesting the proper way that the case should be argued.


neuroscience, responsibility, decision making, Personhood, brain science

Publication Title

Neuroethics: Defining the issues in theory, practice, and policy