Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Slides to Two Recent Talks Connecting the Themes of Ethics, Crime and Psychiatry are Now Online

Just to inform that the slides to my two talks at the 33rd International Congress of Law and Mental Health, held in Amsterdam earlier this summer, are now available online for viewing, download and sharing via my site. Both talks represent work in progress, where I am in the beginning of combining thinking on different topics that I have been touching on in isolation before, but which are nevertheless related through their connection to certain aspects of criminal law policy connecting to medical views of human nature.

They are:

1. The Return of Lombroso? Ethical and Philosophical Aspects of  (Visions of) Forensic Screening

Italian nineteenth century criminologist Cesare Lombroso is notorious for his seminal ideas about criminality and anti-social behaviour resulting from physiological anomalies that should be detected by society and used for forensic preventive purposes. After an extended period of disrepute following World War II, similar ideas have been resurrected in psychiatry, genetics, neurology and criminology in the past decade or two. In particular, there is a growing focus on early detection and application of preventive measures. This development actualizes a complex web of ethics and policy issues having to do with the well-known fact that screening and prevention in the health area are far from ethically clear-cut activities and actualize vivid prospects of doing extensive harm to individuals as well as society. Also, taken to its extreme, it actualizes the idea of using prenatal or preimplantation testing to preselect against children with a predisposition for criminal or antisocial behaviour. In the forensic case, such screening-prevention strategies will connect further to a complicated issue about the proper use of risk-assessment models for societal decision-making for precautionary purposes. Based on former work in all of these areas, this presentation will outline and analyze the basic issue of the defensibility of activities of this sort, with the perspective of forestalling unintentional harm to individuals and society.


2. Hate Crime, Mental Disorder and Criminal Responsibility

Hate crimes are ordinary crimes committed in connection with a negatively prejudiced, biased, disparaging, or antagonistic attitude towards the victim in terms of a perceived membership of a social group. Some hate crimes are elaborate political acts of terror or elaborate persecution, some are so-called “hate speech”, but the overwhelming majority are instances of mundane criminality, involving everything from murder to theft and harassment. Hate crime policies rest on the idea that the bias or “hate”feature make such crimes worse, and that offenders for this reason should be held more firmly responsible. At the same time, the attitude of making a crime into a hate crime involves more or less distorted ideas about reality, together with a willingness to transgress social norms on that basis. In some cases, these views amount to major delusions, resistant to rational scrutiny. In other cases, we may move closer to a point where the belief-desire cluster can be seen as ordinary negligence. Thus, many hate crimes have features that may be argued acting to diminish responsibility according to standard ideas in the philosophy of punishment. The presentation maps underlying value conflicts, tensions, and incoherence in legal practice connected to this complexity of criminal law.

Enjoy for what it's worth!