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Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2006 Aug;74(8):431-41.

[Neurobiological determinism: questionable inferences on human freedom of choice and forensic criminal responsibility].

[Article in German]

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Psychiatrisch-Psychologischer Dienst, Z├╝rich, Schweiz.


Several authors argue that criminal behavior is generally caused by neurobiological deficits. Based on this neurobiological perspective of assumed causality, the concept of free will is questioned, and the theory of neurobiological determinism of all human behavior is put forward, thus maintaining that human beings are not responsible for their actions, and consequently the principle of guilt should be given up in criminal law. In this context the controversial debate on determinism and indeterminism, which has been held for centuries, has flared up anew, especially within the science of criminal law. When critically examining the current state of research, it becomes apparent that the results do not support the existence of a universally valid neurobiological causality of criminal behavior, nor a theory of an absolute neurobiological determinism. Neither is complete determination of all phenomena in the universe--as maintained--the logical conclusion of the principle of causality, nor is it empirically confirmed. Analyzed methodically, it cannot be falsified, and thus, as a theory which cannot be empirically tested, it represents a dogma against which plausible objections can be made. The criticism of the concept of free will, and even more so of human accountability and criminal responsibility, is not put forward in a valid way. The principle of relative determinism--the evaluation of the degree of determinism of personality factors potentially reducing criminal responsibility, which includes concrete observations and analysis of behavior--thus remains a central and cogent approach to the assessment of criminal responsibility. To sum up, the theories proposed by some authors on the complete neurobiological determinism of human behavior, and the subsequent impossibility of individual responsibility and guilt, reveal both methodical misconception and a lack of empirical foundation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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