Between common-sense and neuropsychology: the interface problem

Project summary

In recent decades, genetic and neuroscientific research has started to play more and more important roles in philosophical and legal discussions about moral or criminal responsibility of persons with different psychopathologies. In these discussions, the problem of how to translate or connect neuropsychological data with concepts stemming from commonsensical psychology that underlie social and legal practices is often disregarded. This problem can be titled the interface problem. On one hand, neuroscientific theories refer to neurons, synapses, electric charges, and neural networks that are represented by sophisticated computational models. On the other hand, in everyday life we rely on folk-psychological of commonsensical explanations of behavior that utilize intentional concepts, such as desire, belief, intention, expectation, and so on and so forth. The problem is manifested in ethical and legal discussions when neuroscientific data are used to determine the rationality of an agent. For instance, some authors argue that the discovery of differences in activations patterns of some brain areas between individuals with antisocial personality disorder and healthy individuals indicate important impairments in rational capacities of the former. Then, based on such data, arguments are advanced about the moral and legal responsibility of individuals with antisocial personality disorder. However, the concept of legal responsibility relies on concepts of consciousness and presupposes the existence of capacities or abilities for rational regulation of conduct in accordance with culturally prevailing moral or legal norms. Given this discrepancy between everyday and scientific conceptualizations and explanations of behavior we are faced with the problem of how to justify inferences that cut across these domains.
In this research, I plan to investigate whether the predictive brain/mind paradigm, an influential new paradigm in neurocognitive sciences, can serve as a bridge between commonsensical or folk psychology and new discoveries from neuroscience.

This project was established with a support by the University of Rijeka (Support for young scholars, grant number

Image result for sveučilište u rijeci