Neuroscience, Ethics and Law : new challenges for human identity, freedom and responsibility

Introduction :

“It is not me, it is just my brain who did it”. This could become in the future a common strategy that defendants may use in the courtrooms: admitting they committed a serious crime but arguing that, because of some neurological disorder or as the result of a defective brain implant, they should not be held responsible.

In the past few years, neuroscience has rapidly increased our knowledge of the functioning of the human brain, providing us with an insight into the mental processes underpinning human behavior. These new understandings and knowledge are of relevance to ethics and the law given that they are disciplines primarily concerned with human behavior in action.


The planned Workshop aims to discuss these new issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. To this aim, it will gather a number of internationally recognized experts who will highlight the ethical and legal dilemmas posed by new knowledge and tools in the field of neuroscience, and facilitate the debate by participants. At the same time, the proposed Workshop can be regarded as a common effort of scholars from three different Swiss universities (Zurich, Basel and Lausanne) to promote reflection about neuroethical and neurolegal issues in Switzerland. The three applicants have indeed conceived this event as an integral part of a broader commitment to establish a Swiss network on neuroscience, ethics and law (SNNEL), which will eventually lead to further events including joint seminars, publications, and networking with other universities and organizations. 

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