Psycho-Philosophical Issues Facing the Mens Rea Requirement for Legal Culpability


  • Nicholas Westbrook


When it comes to determining a criminal culpability during court proceedings, jus- tice systems have traditionally favored actions and consequences over intentions. Advances in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, however, are reasserting the importance of mental status in determining culpability, which has begun to challenge our current understanding of justice. This article explores how the mental states that fulfill the mens rea requirement are particularly problematic given that they rely on psycho-philosophical assumptions concerning free will and moral cognition that are unstable at best. The article discusses how these findings may require change in the legal system and suggests future avenues of research.