The Punisher's Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury

The Punisher's Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury

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by Morris B. Hoffman
     
 

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Why do we punish, and why do we forgive? Are these learned behaviors, or is there something deeper going on? This book argues that there is indeed something deeper going on, and that our essential response to the killers, rapists, and other wrongdoers among us has been programmed into our brains by evolution. Using evidence and arguments from neuroscience and

Overview

Why do we punish, and why do we forgive? Are these learned behaviors, or is there something deeper going on? This book argues that there is indeed something deeper going on, and that our essential response to the killers, rapists, and other wrongdoers among us has been programmed into our brains by evolution. Using evidence and arguments from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, Morris B. Hoffman traces the development of our innate drives to punish - and to forgive - throughout human history. He describes how, over time, these innate drives became codified into our present legal systems and how the responsibility and authority to punish and forgive was delegated to one person - the judge - or a subset of the group - the jury. Hoffman shows how these urges inform our most deeply held legal principles and how they might animate some legal reforms.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A thought-provoking and engaging look at one of the oldest questions in morality and law - what is the point of punishment? With advances in the biological study of human nature, increased awareness of long-term historical progress in our attitudes toward retribution, and new concerns about current incarceration practices, this is an especially timely and important book."
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature

"This is a work of exceptional scholarship from an active trial judge who has combined his experiences on the bench with a remarkable review and analysis of how punishment decisions have evolved historically."
Marcus E. Raichle, Professor of Radiology, Neurology, Neurobiology and Biomedical Engineering at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University, and winner of the 2014 Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize

"Morris Hoffman’s fascinating exploration of the intersection of criminal law and biology will inform and provoke. It is a tour de force of speculative, interdisciplinary scholarship."
Stephen J. Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law, Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry, and Associate Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society, University of Pennsylvania

"Using cases from Judge Hoffman's courtroom and the latest scientific findings, this riveting book provides a rich evolutionary explanation not only for good and evil, but also for our fascination with courts and criminals. The Punisher's Brain is a must-read for anyone interested in crime and punishment and why societies flourish or fail."
Paul J. Zak, Professor of Economics and founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity

"Judge Hoffman offers an insightful and surprising analysis of punishment and who decides on it, why, and how."
Lionel Tiger, Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, Rutgers University, and author of The Imperial Animal and God’s Brain

"The Punisher’s Brain is erudite, engaging, wide-ranging, and eminently readable. It updates generations of thought - about why and how we punish - with new perspectives informed by biology and psychology."
Owen D. Jones, New York Alumni Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Professor of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University; Director, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience

"The Punisher’s Brain is lucid, clever, and a delight to read. Judge Hoffman draws on evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, English legal history, and - often most engagingly - his own experiences on the bench to guide the reader on a compelling tour of our punishing instincts."
Francis X. Shen, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Law School and Executive Director of Education and Outreach, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience

Library Journal
★ 05/15/2014
Hoffman (law, Univ. of Colorado, Univ. of Denver), a trial judge for the Second Judicial District of the Colorado state court system, has stellar credentials for positing theories about the law, but, perhaps surprisingly, he also invokes science to explore the nature of punishment and its relation to the legal system. This fascinating book transcends categorization. Melding neuroscience, biology, primatology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology, philosophy, history, and, of course, law, Hoffman promulgates a treatise on the evolution of punishment, arguing that it has evolved along with us. Indeed, our notions of punishment and judgment are hardwired in our brains, subject to shifting evolutionary trends. In 11 well-researched chapters, Hoffman explores such phenomena as cheating, blaming, cooperation, conscience, guilt, retaliation, revenge, retribution, and forgiveness. Furthermore, he introduces and analyzes various dissonances and fallacies that shape our legal judgment. The final chapter, "Brains Punishing Brains," identifies old and new perspectives on the topic, returning to the four traditional directives underlying it: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. While the author does not resolve the conflicting goals of punishment, he does provide a novel overview of the issues. VERDICT This title is indispensable reading for scholars of jurisprudence who value texts such as Jeremy Bentham's classic, The Rationale of Punishment.—Lynne Maxwell, West Virginia Univ. Coll. of Law Lib., Morgantown

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781139904872
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
04/14/2014
Series:
Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
11 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Morris B. Hoffman is a trial judge for the Second Judicial District (Denver), State of Colorado. He is a member of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Law and Neuroscience and is a Research Fellow at the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research. He is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver, where he teaches courses on jury history and selection, law and neuroscience, and law and the biology of human nature. His law articles have appeared in many journals, including the law reviews of the University of Chicago, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, George Mason University, Northwestern University, Stanford University, and Vanderbilt University. He has written op-eds on legal topics for several national newspapers, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. His scientific publications include papers in The Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions B and Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience. Judge Hoffman received his JD from the University of Colorado School of Law.

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The Punisher's Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
nhays More than 1 year ago
Fascinating exploration of our ancient reactions to cheaters in our midst and how our system delegating punishment to a third party (professional law enforcement and judiciary) developed from those primitive urges to punish malfeasance. The research was solid, and the writing clear (despite the judicial discussions). I'm probably biased because I agree with his basic premises, but believe any reader who commits to finishing the book will not  find the time wasted. Of course, some of the conclusions arising from the influence of our primitive brains on our current system of justice are somewhat discouraging. Still, surfacing the underside of our current system and its ancient sources permits discussion of how to make "justice" more equal to "law." Right now, they seem unreasonably far apart, and Judge Hoffman investigates how they got that way and some solutions that might better fit our natures. Overall, an impressive contribution to legal theory that pulls in basic evolutionary psychology. Highly recommended.