The Inevitable Mind in the Age of Neuroscience

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter argues that free will is not a presupposition of criminal law, or any other area of law, and thus causal determinism about mental states and actions (whether illuminated by neuroscience or not) does not undermine legal responsibility. Hence, people who question whether there can be free will in a causal world are simply making a mistake. The chapter thus defends a ‘compatibilist’ position for law (in which free will and causal determinism can coexist). It argues that legal responsibility depends on the degree to which we are responsive to reasons. Because of this, the chapter concludes that neuroscience does not pose any global challenges to legal responsibility and is unlikely to undermine the law’s conceptions of mind, mental states, and action any time soon.


free will, criminal law, causal determinism, mental states, compatibilism, compatibilist approach to law, legal responsibility

Publication Title

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience

Publication Citation

In Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience (Dennis Patterson & Michael S. Pardo eds., Oxford 2016)

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