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University of Pennsylvania Law Review

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mens rea, criminal law, mental states, responsibility, culpability, punishment, neuroscience, Model Penal Code, knowing, reckless, fMRI, brain, brain states, decision making, cognitive, psychology, neurolaw, law and neuroscience, cognitive


Criminal Law | Health Law and Policy | Law


What if the widely used Model Penal Code (MPC) assumes a distinction between mental states that doesn’t actually exist? The MPC assumes, for instance, that there is a real distinction in real people between the mental states it defines as “knowing” and “reckless.” But is there?

If there are such psychological differences, there must also be brain differences. Consequently, the moral legitimacy of the Model Penal Code’s taxonomy of culpable mental states – which punishes those in defined mental states differently – depends on whether those mental states actually correspond to different brain states in the way the MPC categorization assumes.



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