Status Update

I’ll begin with my elephant project (the biggest thing in any room I visited for about two years now): Bill Hirstein, Tyler Fagan and I submitted our manuscript Responsible Brains to MIT right before Christmas. We hope the book will be released this upcoming fall (fall 2018). We are very pleased with the final product, and are so thankful to Al Mele (Florida State), who supported the book via a sub-grant from his Philosophy and Science of Self-Control project, funded by the Templeton foundation.

In related news, academic year 2017-2018 has turned out to be the year I learn to say “no”: to conference presentations and other speaking engagements; to invitations to contribute to edited volumes and special issues; and to requests for  peer-review. Learning to say no has been painful but necessary. Almost every moment of my time during the fall 2017 term was consumed doing one of five things: writing the book, meeting professional obligations I had agreed to before I learned to say no, running my department, teaching my classes, and taking care of my kids. I didn’t get my hair cut for four months. I completely fell off the yoga wagon. At one point I was waking up from 2-5am to write — not a schedule I would recommend to anyone even half sane.

I’m not really sure I’m at a point in my career where it is wise to cut back significantly on my speaking and writing — but I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Plus, I feel like one result of being over-committed in the past year was that I missed out on the process of letting my current interests direct my research. Invitations to speak and contribute papers often come with obligations to discuss a particular topic; sometimes, it is a topic one is no longer super interested in discussing. For example, right now I have two papers and a panel discussion on psychopaths to finish up (or, let’s be honest, start!). I am beginning to feel like I may have already said all there is for me to say about the topic. Saying “no” to new projects means that this summer, after I finish the things I have already committed to, I might turn to new problems.

Having said this, I am very pleased to be on a panel with Adrian Raine and Stephen Morse discussing the responsibility of psychopaths at Columbia April 9th. (Really, I am.) Given the stellar careers and intellects of my co-panelists, I feel more than a bit nervous about keeping up with the discussion, but this is often how I feel when I give talks — both lucky to participate and a bit intimidated. Of course, I know Stephen to be kind and generous in such settings, and by reputation, Adrian is as well. So the panel should be fun.

I’m also giving a talk at Northern Illinois on February 2, and having what should be a fascinating discussion on law and ethics with former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara at Elmhurst College March 7. This past fall I gave a talk at a great Neuroscience & Society conference at Sydney Law School in Australia. (Thanks to Jeanette Kennett and Nicole Vincent for the invitation!) My presentation, which was a public lecture (and thus a bit general in its scope), asked “Is Neuroscience Relevant to Criminal Responsibility?” My answer, of course, was “Yes and No.” Anyone interested in the slides can contact me via twitter or email.

This spring I’m teaching three great courses at Elmhurst College: Neuroethics, Medical Humanities, and Philosophy of Law. In the Neuroethics course I will be using the special tenth anniversary issue of the journal Neuroethics Neil Levy posted lasted month (along with Levy’s textbook). In my Philosophy of Law class I will focus on work by HLA Hart and Dworkin, which should be fun (at least for me, I can’t speak for my students). I’m still looking for a few good Medical Humanities texts — any ideas?

Looking forward, I’m hoping to begin blogging again now that our book is in the final stages, so watch this space for hints regarding developing work. Right now I’m really interested in pre-trial detention (can it ever be justified on a backward-looking desert model?) and the way in which institutionalized criminal punishment might develop, instead of stunt, moral agency in prisoners.

Happy New Year to all!



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