Royal Society Publishing

Responsibility and punishment: whose mind? A response


Cognitive neuroscience is challenging the Anglo-American approach to criminal responsibility. Critiques, in this issue and elsewhere, are pointing out the deeply flawed psychological assumptions underlying the legal tests for mental incapacity. The critiques themselves, however, may be flawed in looking, as the tests do, at the psychology of the offender. Introducing the strategic structure of punishment into the analysis leads us to consider the psychology of the punisher as the critical locus of cognition informing the responsibility rules. Such an approach both helps to make sense of the counterfactual assumptions about offender psychology embodied in the law and provides a possible explanation for the human conviction of the existence of free will, at least in others.