Vol. 37 No. 2 (2017): Ethics, Law and Cognitive Science

Responsibility and Control in a Neuroethical Perspective

Elisabetta Sirgiovanni
Center for Bioethics New York University

Published 2017-12-21


  • responsibility,
  • control,
  • unconscious,
  • neuroethics,
  • legal,
  • ...More

How to Cite

Sirgiovanni, E. (2017). Responsibility and Control in a Neuroethical Perspective. Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 37(2), 159–174. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v37i2.24


Folk ethical theories presupposed by prevailing moral theories and current legal systems tend to identify a close link between responsibility and conscious control. They generally claim that we can hold an agent responsible for outcomes of actions over which s/he exercises a certain degree of conscious control. In the last few decades, however, cognitive neuroscience has offered evidence about unconscious control processes and self-deceptive attributions of control, the so-called Frail Control Hypothesis. This hypothesis threatens the common notion of responsibility itself. I will consider possible solutions to the neuroscientific threat and discuss objections to all of them. Then, I will provide some suggestions for building a neuroethical account of responsibility that unifies the benefits of the different solutions but takes their limitations into consideration.