Mechanical Choices: The Responsibility of the Human Machine

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This book assays how the remarkable discoveries of contemporary neuroscience impact our conception of ourselves and our responsibility for our choices and our actions. Dramatic (and indeed revolutionary) changes in how we think of ourselves as agents and as persons are commonly taken to be the implications of those discoveries of neuroscience. Indeed, the very notions of responsibility and of deserved punishment are thought to be threatened by these discoveries. Such threats are collected into four groupings: (1) the threat from determinism, that neurosciences shows us that all of our choices and actions are caused by events in the brain that precede choice; (2) the threat from epiphenomenalism, that our choices are shown by experiment not to cause the actions that are the objects of such choice but are rather mere epiphenomena, co-effects of common causes in the brain; (3) the threat from reductionist mechanism, that we and everything we value is nothing but a bunch of two-valued switches going off in our brains; and (4) the threat from fallibilism, that we are not masters in our own house because we lack the privileged knowledge of our own minds needed to be such masters. The book seeks to blunt such radical challenges while nonetheless detailing how law, morality, and common-sense psychology can harness the insights of an advancing neuroscience to more accurately assign moral blame and legal punishment to the truly deserving.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages612
ISBN (Print)9780190864002, 9780190863999
StatePublished - May 2020


  • neuroscience
  • compatibilism
  • punishment
  • epiphenomenalism
  • physicalism
  • mechanism
  • determinism
  • responsibility


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanical Choices: The Responsibility of the Human Machine'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this