The workshop on ‘Neuroscience and Responsibility’, part of the Gothenburg Responsibility Project, took place in 14 November 20145. The conference was well attended, the talks were informative, and the discussion was lively and productive.
Michael Moore (Illinois) kicked things off with his talk ‘Nothing But a Pack of Neurons: Responsible Reductionism About the Mental States that Measure Moral Culpability’. Part of Moore’s current project is to show that reductionism (roughly, the view that mental states are just brain states) is not a threat to our responsibility practices – that is to say, we can still be morally and legally responsible even if mental states reduce to brain states. The worry is that if mental states reduce to brain states, then it is not us but rather our brain states that are responsible for our actions – that is, we are ‘nothing but a pack of neurons’ and not the appropriate loci for attributions of responsibility. Moore argued that this worry is ill founded. He emphasised that reducibility does not imply non-existence, and that mistakenly conflating reductionism with this second stance (also known as eliminativism) is what leads to the worry that the truth of reductionism would imply responsibility scepticism. Moore ended by noting that the same move can assuage worries that neuroscientific discoveries are or might be a threat to our responsibility practices.