‘Drugs That Make You Feel Bad’? Remorse-Based Mitigation and Neurointerventions

Criminal Law and Philosophy 11 (3):499-522 (2017)
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In many jurisdictions, an offender’s remorse is considered to be a relevant factor to take into account in mitigation at sentencing. The growing philosophical interest in the use of neurointerventions in criminal justice raises an important question about such remorse-based mitigation: to what extent should technologically facilitated remorse be honoured such that it is permitted the same penal significance as standard instances of remorse? To motivate this question, we begin by sketching a tripartite account of remorse that distinguishes cognitive, affective and motivational elements of remorse. We then describe a number of neurointerventions that might plausibly be used to enhance abilities that are relevant to these different elements of remorse. Having described what we term the ‘moral value’ view of the justification of remorse-based mitigation, we then consider whether using neurointerventions to facilitate remorse would undermine its moral value, and thus make it inappropriate to honour such remorse in the criminal justice system. We respond to this question by claiming that the form of moral understanding that is incorporated into a genuinely remorseful response grounds remorse’s moral value. In view of this claim, we conclude by arguing that neurointerventions need not undermine remorse’s moral value on this approach, and that the remorse that such interventions might facilitate could also be authentic to the recipient of the neurointerventions that we discuss.
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