Friday, August 26, 2011
Catholic readers who are interested in issues of criminal responsibility should be paying attention to the work of Stephen Morse. One kind of currently fashionable criticism of the idea of criminal responsibility comes from those who are interested in applying the insights of neuroscience and genetics to criminal law, in some cases ostensibly to make the larger claim that we ought no longer to rely on ideas of moral blame in criminal law; human behavior is sufficiently biologically determined that the law ought to move beyond primitive ideas of mens rea.
In this little article, Professor Morse briefly states the case against this position. These debates are obviously not new; in fact, it's interesting to me that they tend to recur in different forms across time. Indeed, it was Morse who first brought to my attention that Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (I know, I know...one-track mind) convincingly took the view that Morse now champions (with appropriate changes for contemporary circumstances, of course), in this excellent short piece.