West Virginia Law Review

Document Type



Criminal law has adopted the folk psychological view of human agency. Under this view, voluntary action exists and mental states, such as intentions, goals, and desires, have a causal relationship with bodily movement. However, new advances in neuroscience have begun to challenge this model and have lent empirical support to the idea that mental states may not play a causal role in bodily movement. This has profound implications for the voluntary act element of actus reus because the requirement presupposes the folk psychological view of agency. Nevertheless, criminal law can avoid this dilemma through praxeology, the deductive study of human action. This Article demonstrates through the deductive methods of praxeology that voluntary acts exist even assuming that mental states do not cause any bodily movement. Therefore, a praxeological conception of voluntariness in criminal law escapes the potential legal and bioethical dilemmas associated with using folk psychology in the voluntary act requirement. Furthermore, this Article shows that a praxeological theory of action is fully compatible with positive criminal law while still eliminating the possibility of legal voluntariness becoming a meaningless concept.

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Criminal Law Commons



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