Responsibility Between Neuroscience and Criminal Law. The Control Component of Criminal Liability

Sofia Bonicalzi, Patrick Haggard


Abstract: The paper discusses the contribution that the neuroscience of action can offer to the legal understanding of action control and responsibility in the case of adult individuals. In particular, we address the issues that follow. What are the cognitive capacities that agents must display in order to be held liable to punishment in criminal law? Is the legal model of liability to punishment compatible with a scientifically informed understanding of voluntary behaviour? To what extent should the law take into account people’s subjective feelings about their own actions? As a result of our analyses, we indicate some areas where the contribution of the neuroscience of action to the law is potentially relevant. We focus on the subjectivity mechanisms of action control, specifically the requirement that the agent must violate the law voluntarily in order to be held responsible, and on the factors that modulate the wrongdoer’s experience of agency. Overall, we advocate more cross-disciplinary work, aimed to bridge the gap between conceptual boundaries, on the theme of responsibility for actions.

Keywords: Responsibility; Neurolaw; Sense of Agency; Criminal Law; Criminal Liability


La responsabilità tra neuroscienza e diritto penale. La componente di controllo dell’imputabilità penale

Riassunto: L’articolo discute il contributo che la neuroscienza dell’azione può offrire ai temi del controllo dell’azione e della responsabilità in ambito legale, nel caso degli individui adulti. In particolare, ci occuperemo delle questioni che seguono. Quali sono le abilità cognitive che un agente deve possedere per esser considerato penalmente responsabile e quindi punibile? Il modello legalistico della responsabilità è compatibile con il modello scientifico-naturalistico del comportamento umano? Fino a che punto variazioni nel senso di controllo soggettivo sulle azioni dovrebbero essere considerate un parametro rilevante in sede penale? Sulla scorta della nostra analisi, indicheremo alcune aree nelle quali il contributo della neuroscienza dell’azione a questioni legate al tema della responsabilità legale potrebbe rivelarsi rilevante. L’articolo si concentra sui meccanismi che regolano il senso soggettivo di controllo dell’azione – in particolare il requisito secondo il quale l’agente deve violare la legge volontariamente per essere ritenuto responsabile –, e sui fattori che modulano il senso di agentività del colpevole. In conclusione, difenderemo l’appropriatezza di una più ampia riflessione multi-disciplinare volta a ridurre le incompatibilità fra differenti approcci al tema della responsabilità per le nostre azioni.

Parole chiave: Responsabilità; Neurodiritto; Senso di agentività; Diritto penale; Imputabilità penale

Parole chiave

Responsibility; Neurolaw; Sense of Agency; Criminal Law; Criminal Liability

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