Consciousness and Responsibility in the Law
For the week of May 14, 2017
How did conceptions of consciousness and personhood shape the American legal system? Professor Susanna Blumenthal discusses her book “Law and the Modern Mind: Consciousness and Responsibility in American Legal Cutlure,” which was awarded the 2017 Merle Curti Award for the best book published in American intellectual history.
Guest: Susanna Blumenthal, Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota
Professor Blumenthal traces the history of how American courts decided cases surrounding issues of mental soundness. Influenced by Enlightenment philosophy and science of the mind, jurists in post-revolutionary America developed a kind of “default legal person” in which to judge moral responsibility.
While the issue of insanity and law is most often thought of in the context of a murder trial, Blumenthal looked at how jurists argued over the definition of insanity in more common civil law cases and disputes over contracts and property.