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The Punisher's Brain
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  • Cited by 6
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    This book has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Moll, Jorge de Oliveira-Souza, Ricardo Basilio, Rodrigo Bramati, Ivanei Edson Gordon, Barry Rodríguez-Nieto, Geraldine Zahn, Roland Krueger, Frank and Grafman, Jordan 2018. Altruistic decisions following penetrating traumatic brain injury. Brain, Vol. 141, Issue. 5, p. 1558.

    Arnhart, Larry 2018. The evolution of private governance: Neither anarchism nor Statism. The Review of Austrian Economics, Vol. 31, Issue. 2, p. 257.

    Hoffman, Morris B. and Krueger, Frank 2017. Self, Culture and Consciousness. p. 207.

    Durrant, Russil and Poppelwell, Zoe 2017. Religion, Crime and Punishment. p. 161.

    Giliberto, Concetta 2017. Old Frisian skalk: A ‘Servant’ or a ‘Rogue’?. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, Vol. 77, Issue. 1-2, p. 117.

    Jones, Owen D. 2015. The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. p. 1.

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    The Punisher's Brain
    • Online ISBN: 9781139811873
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Book description

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.


'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

'Hoffman's book is good at showing how biology helps identify blame.'

Source: The Economist

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