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Title page for ETD etd-07182014-142823

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Green, Blake Allen
URN etd-07182014-142823
Title Working Toward a Legal, Scientific, and Philosophical Conception of Mental Capacity
Degree Master of Arts
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John Lachs Committee Member
Larry May Committee Member
  • agent responsibility
  • bioethics
  • mental capacity
  • law and neuroscience
  • philosophy
  • decision making capacity
  • mental disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • delusions
  • legal system
Date of Defense 2014-06-27
Availability unrestricted
As the cognitive sciences reveal more and more to us about the ways in which ours brains function, legal scholars, philosophers, and bioethicists are but a few of the academics that will have accommodate this increasing knowledge into theory and practice. Herein, I argue that several problematic areas in the United States legal system might be ameliorated in coming years by augmenting our conception of mental capacity. While the term is broad and carries many possible applications, I focus on two particular applications, patient decision making capacity in hospitals, and the capacity of mentally ill defendants to form a guilty mindset, or mens rea. Through these two examinations, I show that other closely related terms, such as diminished capacity, mental competency, and legal insanity, already in use in our legal system are insufficient to capture the exact nature of some cases better examined through the lens of actual capacities for thoughts, mental states, or cognitive processes. Additionally, I attempt to indicate a trajectory through which advances in cognitive legal theory might take, guided by an interdisciplinary union between theorists, scientists, and legal scholars.
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