Nonconsensual neurocorrectives, bypassing, and free action

Philosophical Studies 179 (6):1953-1972 (2021)


As neuroscience progresses, we will not only gain a better understanding of how our brains work, but also a better understanding of how to modify them, and as a result, our mental states. An important question we are faced with is whether the state could be justified in implementing such methods on criminal offenders, without their consent, for the purposes of rehabilitation and reduction of recidivism; a practice that is already legal in some jurisdictions. By focusing on a prominent type of view of free action, which I call bypassing views, this paper evaluates how such interventions may negatively impact the freedom of their subjects. The paper concludes that there will be a tension between the goals of rehabilitation and reduction of recidivism, on the one hand, and the negative impact such interventions may have on free action, on the other. Other things equal, the better that a particular intervention is at achieving the former, the more likely it is to result in the latter.

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Gabriel De Marco
Oxford University

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