Genes and desert

New Scientist flags a Nature News report that an Italian judge named Pier Valerio Reinotti recently shaved a year off a man’s sentence after learning he is genetically predisposed to aggression.  (Though the Nature News article is behind a paywall, you can read an excerpt on the Sentencing Law and Policy blog.)

I suppose Reinotti must have hard determinist intuitions– that is, he must believe that criminals can’t be morally responsible for their deeds if those deeds were caused by prior events.  And I suppose he must also be a retributivist– that is, he must think only desert justifies punishment, not deterrence or rehabilitation.  I wonder how common this combination of views is.  It strikes me as an especially awkward combination of views for someone charged with doling out criminal punishments.  The more he learns about genetics, biology, and psychology, the fewer people he’ll be able to punish.

Related articles:

£1.99 - small Recent Work on Free Will and Moral Responsibility
By Neil Levy and Michael McKenna (December 2008)
Philosophy Compass

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