Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter is a submission to the Oxford Handbook of Law and the Regulation of Technology edited by Roger Brownsword. It considers whether the new sciences of the brain/mind, especially neuroscience and behavioral genetics, are likely to transform the law’s traditional concepts of the person, agency and responsibility. The chapter begins with a brief speculation about why so many people think these sciences will transform the law. After reviewing the law’s concepts, misguided challenges to them, and the achievements of the new sciences, the chapter confronts the claim that these sciences prove that we are really not agents and that no one is responsible. It argues that this claim cannot be supported empirically or conceptually and no revolution in legal thinking is foreseeable. The chapter concludes by suggesting that the new sciences have little to offer the law at present, but in the future they may contribute modestly to reforming doctrine, policy and practice.


Personhood, agency, responsibility, neuroscience, behavioral genetics, compatibilism, rationality, criminal culpability, free will

Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology

Publication Citation

In The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, & Karen Yeung eds., Oxford 2017)