Neurotechnology and the Law (completed)

The project’s main focus is on the relation between neuroscience and the law (neurolaw), asking what the impact of neuroscience will and should be on the practice of the law, in particular criminal law and criminal procedure, as well as on our theoretical understanding of the law.

About the project

“Neurolaw” is a fast-growing field internationally, and while we will work in dialogue with the international research community(in particular through collaboration with the Center for Neuroscience & Society at the University of Pennsylvania and the The Wellcome Centre for Neuroethics in Oxford), our project will provide an original contribution to the field in two ways.

First, most of the research within neurolaw today is built on the anglo-american legal system; we will consider the specific challenges arising in the Scandinavian legal system, with its realist tradition in the philosophy of law, and its distinct debate on the criminal law. Next, while the research on law and neuroscience is today primarily seen as part of the philosophy of law, we believe that the methods and concepts of political philosophy can provide a new and useful perspective: It is from the standpoint of the relation between law and politics that we can best understand the relation between law and neuroscience. In particular, the idea of public reason, common in contemporary political philosophy, might be used to identify the proper way to use neuroscientific findings in debates over criminal policy and public policy more generally.


Among the issues we will consider in this project are:

  • Which philosophical conclusions concerning moral and criminal responsibility can be drawn from the neuroscientific findings? Can these conclusions be extended to other social policies where responsibility play a central role, such as questions of distributive justice or just health care?
  • What does neuroscience tell us about how people exercise their moral judgment, and in what way should this knowledge influence the practice and theory of criminal law? Is it legitimate for the State to use this knowledge to improve its citizens moral character, through therapeutic justice or similar means?
  • Which considerations should guide the introduction of neurotechnologies in the court? When is the new science and technology sufficiently good to provide premises for legal decisions and public policy?


The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council's ELSA-program as an exploratory project to be conducted in 2010.

Published Mar. 31, 2010 10:47 AM - Last modified Apr. 14, 2011 5:07 PM