Nov 17 - Center for Law and Philosophy: Michael S. Moore


Mon, 11/17/2014 - 15:30 to 17:30

The Center for Law and Philosophy presents Michael S. Moore, Professor of Law and Director of the Program in Law and Philosophy in the College of Law of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign on "The Nature and the Neuroscience of Volitional Excuse."  (Abstract below.)

Monday, Nov 17, 330-530pm, College of Law 168 (1201 E Speedway Boulevard)

Sponsored by the College of Law and the Philosophy Department of the University of Arizona. 

 Volitional excuse is distinguished from other modes of eliminating moral responsibility, including justification, lack of action, lack of intention, or cognitive excuse.  This moral excuse is also located within various legal defenses in criminal law such as duress, diminished capacity, provocation, and the like.  The principle underlying all legal and moral instantiations of volitional excuse is the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP): if the actor could not have done other than he did, he is excused for doing it.  Two interpretations of this principle are recognized, an incompatibilist one whereby an actor whose choice is sufficiently caused by factors he does not control “could not have done otherwise;” and a compatibilist one whereby only an actor unable to realize his desires through his actions “could not have done otherwise.”  The compatibilist sense of PAP is the sense pursued, the attempt being made to limit the principle so construed in order that not all wrongdoers who do what they intend are necessarily without excuse.  Six psychological models (of how an intentional wrongdoer might nonetheless plausibly claim he lacked an ability to do other than he did) are distinguished; a counterfactual reading is given of each of these models, in terms of what the actor would do in certain contrary-to-fact situations; and the likelihood of either experimental psychology or contemporary neuroscience reaching the point where it could verify these counterfactuals is assessed.

For more information, please contact Thomas Christiano,


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