Chapter

What Hobbes Left Out: The Neuroscience of Compassion and its Implications for a New Common-wealth

James D. Duffy

in Law and Neuroscience

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199599844
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725227 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599844.003.0023

Series: Current Legal Issues

What Hobbes Left Out: The Neuroscience of Compassion and its Implications for a New Common-wealth

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Much has changed, and much has happened, in the four centuries since Hobbes wrote Leviathan. However, his jaundiced view of human nature and the necessity of enforced moral codes remains the dominant organizing principle of our social and legal systems. Our judicial restraints have multiplied and the number of our incarcerated citizens continues to escalate dramatically. Given this apparent paradox, one can be forced into one of two conclusions, i.e., human beings are incapable of being morally constrained; or, our current model of societal morality is inadequate (or simply wrong). This chapter argues for the latter. Recent advances in the social neurosciences are providing us with insights into ourselves that require us to re-evaluate and evolve our models of social morality. Rather than replacing our current models, these insights provide us with an opportunity to support the emergence of social systems that not only inhibit anti-social behaviours, but actually support pro-social behaviours by our citizens.

Keywords: Thomas Hobbes; human nature; judicial restraints; moral constraint; societal morality; social neuroscience

Chapter.  6357 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law

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