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Responsibility and Control in a Neuroethical Perspective

Elisabetta Sirgiovanni


Folk ethical theories presupposed by prevailing moral theories and current legal systems tend to identify a close link between responsibility and conscious control. They generally claim that we can hold an agent responsible for outcomes of actions over which s/he exercises a certain degree of conscious control. In the last few decades, however, cognitive neuroscience has offered evidence about unconscious control processes and self-deceptive attributions of control, the so-called Frail Control Hypothesis. This hypothesis threatens the common notion of responsibility itself. I will consider possible solutions to the neuroscientific threat and discuss objections to all of them. Then, I will provide some suggestions for building a neuroethical account of responsibility that unifies the benefits of the different solutions but takes their limitations into consideration.


responsibility; control; unconscious; neuroethics; legal;

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