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  We are More Than our Executive Functions: on the Emotional and Situational Aspects of Criminal Responsibility and Punishment

Coppola, F. (2021). We are More Than our Executive Functions: on the Emotional and Situational Aspects of Criminal Responsibility and Punishment. Criminal Law, Philosophy, 2021.

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Coppola2021_Article_WeAreMoreThanOurExecutiveFunct.pdf (Any fulltext), 524KB
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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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Coppola, Federica1, Author              
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1Criminal Law, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law, Max Planck Society, ou_2489694              

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 Abstract: In Responsible Brains (MIT Press, 2018), Hirstein, Sifferd and Fagan apply the language of cognitive neuroscience to dominant understandings of criminal responsibility in criminal law theory. The Authors make a compelling case that, under such dominant understandings, criminal responsibility eventually ‘translates’ into a minimal working set of executive functions (MWS) that are primarily mediated by the frontal lobes of the brain. In so arguing, the Authors seem to unquestioningly accept the law’s view of the “responsible person” as a mixture of cognitive capacities and mechanisms—thereby leaving aside other fundamental aspects of individuals’ human agency. This commentary article offers a critique of the Authors’ rationalist and individualist approach. The critique can be summarized through the following claim: We humans, as responsible beings, are more than our executive functions. This claim articulates through four main points of discussion: (1) role of emotions in moral judgments and behavior; (2) executive functions and normative criteria for legal insanity; (3) impact of adverse situational factors on executive functions; (4) Authors’ account of punishment and, especially, rehabilitation.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-07-22
 Publication Status: Published online
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Title: Criminal Law, Philosophy
Source Genre: Journal
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