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Brain dysfunction and moral culpability

ERI 149
Wednesday 6 December 2017 (13:00-14:00)

Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar Series 2017/18

  • Speaker: Dr Anneli Jefferson
  • Title: Brain dysfunction and moral culpability

The Philosophy department's work in progress seminar is an opportunity for the members of staff at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to each other and to the department's postgraduate students.
The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 13:00 to 14.00 in the ERI. All welcome!


I discuss three cases for which philosophers have argued that brain pathology provides excuse or exemption from moral responsibility. I argue that what is central to moral responsibility is psychological capacity, and that brain dysfunction is only relevant in as far as it gives us further evidence for lack of psychological capacity. I then consider an objection, which is that brain pathology makes a further difference to moral responsibility in cases of severe brain pathology such as tumours and neurodegenerative diseases. One argument for this is that the causal origin of the psychological dysfunction is also relevant and should be taken into consideration. The other is that the prognosis makes a difference to responsibility in neurodegenerative diseases.

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