Date of Award
The retributive justification of Canadian criminal law contains several assumptions about human nature that conflicts with what neuroscience has established regarding human behavior and the function of rationality. Interdisciplinary discourse on this conflict between law and neuroscience has unnecessarily implicated the free will debate and is further stagnated by epistemic cultural differences between the two disciplines. To avoid these roadblocks, this thesis applies the methodological principles of pragmatic philosophy. Rather than asking which description of human nature is true, pragmatic inquiry focuses on the difference either would make in practice. This analysis reveals that retributive folk psychology in practice causes various negative effects. In contrast, neuroscience offers practical insight into human behaviour that enables us to understand longstanding problems in the Canadian criminal justice system. Furthermore, coupled with compatible norms derived from alternative legal theory, it can support the development of progressive reforms in criminal justice.
Sarah Greenwood, Metaphysics & Morals in Canadian Criminal Justice: A Pragmatic Analysis of The Conflict Between Neuroscience and Retributive Folk Psychology (LLM Thesis, Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law, 2020) [Unpublished].