How Should Free Will Skeptics Pursue Legal Change?

Neuroethics 11 (1):47-54 (2017)
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Free will skepticism is the view that people never truly deserve to be praised, blamed, or punished for what they do. One challenge free will skeptics face is to explain how criminality could be dealt with given their skepticism. This paper critically examines the prospects of implementing legal changes concerning crime and punishment derived from the free will skeptical views developed by Derk Pereboom and Gregg Caruso. One central aspect of the changes their views require is a concern for reducing the severity of current forms of punishment. The paper considers two strategies for pursuing such a reduction. By taking into account evidence from the psychology of belief in free will and desire to punish, it is argued that a strategy aiming at a reduction of people’s natural desire to punish criminals can be successful if capable of providing alternatives to current forms of punishment satisfying three properties: they must be less harmful than current forms of punishment, more effective in preventing crime, and incompatible with current forms of punishment.

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Marcelo Fischborn
Instituto Federal Farroupilha

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References found in this work

Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life.Derk Pereboom - 2014 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Oxford University Press USA.
Living Without Free Will.Derk Pereboom - 2001 - Cambridge University Press.
Free Will and Luck.Alfred R. Mele - 2006 - Oxford University Press.

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