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Social theory and the significance of free will in our system of criminal justice

Trefwoorden free will, determinism, communicative action, legitimacy, social theory
Auteurs Dr. Rob Schwitters
Auteursinformatie

Dr. Rob Schwitters
Rob Schwitters is Associate Professor of Sociology of Law and connected to the Paul Scholten Centre at the University of Amsterdam. He publishes on tort law, responsibility and liability, the welfare state and compliance.
  • Samenvatting

      Free will is a key assumption of our system of criminal justice. However, the assumption of a free will is questioned by the rapidly growing empirical findings of the neuro and the brain sciences. These indicate that human behavior is driven by subconscious forces beyond the free will. In this text I aim to indicate how social theory might contribute to this debate. This text is an attempt to demonstrate that social theory does not automatically side with the deterministic attacks on free will. The denial of the free will is to a great extent based on a flawed interpretation of free will, in which it is seen as a capacity of separate individuals. I will suggest that it is the sociological realization that free will is embedded in intersubjective relations that helps to clarify which value is at stake when we deny free will. Free will presumes social practices and social relations that facilitate moral and political discourse. As long as we see human actors as capable to evaluate these practices and contexts in moral and political terms, we cannot deny them a free will. My argumentation will build on the theories of Peter Strawson, Anthony Giddens and Jürgen Habermas.

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