[ExI] insanity plea

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun Feb 24 16:56:23 UTC 2013

Stefano, how does the insanity plea work in the continental law tradition?

On 24/02/2013 15:35, spike wrote:
> Ja. If we presume to set up a number of different varieties of crazy, 
> I can see a hundred ways this whole notion could go seriously wrong.  
> In the US, gun ownership and voting are considered constitutional 
> rights for those who have not been convicted of a felony.  In 
> introducing a new category of those whose gun rights are to be 
> infringed, it seems logical to me that if anyone is too crazy to have 
> a gun, then they are definitely too crazy to vote.

Not necessarily. First, the idea that felons do not have a right to vote 
is a local one - the UK is actually struggling with the European Court 
of Human Rights, which has judged that preventing prisoners from voting 
is a severe infringement of their rights. And I think one can make a 
good case that some people who have mental disorders yet should have the 
right to vote (should we prevent depressed or anorexics from voting?)

Being ill means that certain rights and obligations change, but they 
change in different ways depending on how the person is sick and in 
different ways from someone who is a criminal. Criminals are assumed to 
know right from wrong but choose to do wrong; mentally ill people might 
or might not have that ability - when they are locked up it is for very 
different reasons than criminals. I think the simple test of whether 
somebody might deserve a right is that they understand what it is and 
what it implies: sociopaths are actually too short-term and self-centred 
to have for example voting rights, while anorectics are perfectly normal 
in all domains except body image. Yes, this concept of rights also 
implies that a lot of stupid adults should not have voting rights, and 
that posthumans might have rights and obligations beyond ours.

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University

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