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Nanotechnology and the Attribution of Responsibility
Volume 5, Issue 2

Katrina L. Sifferd, Elmhurst College

To attribute responsibility, including criminal responsibility, one must use commonsense psychology. Commonsense psychology allows us to understand and predict behavior via attribution of mental states, and thus to asses the relationship between a person’s desires and any harm they have caused. This article by Dr. Katrina L. Sifferd discusses how nanotechnological advances—particularly in neuroscience—may affect our commonsense attribution of mental states, and thus affect assessments of responsibility. Neuroscientific nanotechnology may have this effect by providing new information about the mental states relevant to responsibility, or by allowing us to alter, inhibit, or “implant” the mental states relevant to responsibility. Dr. Sifferd concludes that these possibilities of neuroscientific nanotechnology pose no unique threat to criminal responsibility except with regard to implantation of desires (the least likely possibility resulting from neuro-nanotechnology).

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