, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 217–227 | Cite as

Direct Brain Interventions, Changing Values and the Argument from Objectification – a Reply to Elizabeth Shaw

  • Sebastian HolmenEmail author
Original Paper


This paper critically discusses the argument from objectification – as recently presented by Elizabeth Shaw – against mandatory direct brain interventions (DBIs) targeting criminal offenders’ values as part of rehabilitative or reformative schemes. Shaw contends that such DBIs would objectify offenders because a DBI “excludes offenders by portraying them as a group to whom we need not listen” and “implies that offenders are radically defective with regard to one of the most fundamental aspects of their agency” (Shaw Criminal Law and Philosophy 8:1–20, 1). To ensure that offenders are not objectified, Shaw first maintains that we should restrict rehabilitative/reformative schemes to attempts at rational dialogue because such an approach respects the offender’s personhood. Second, Shaw claims that we should not portray offenders as radically defective because such treatment would only negatively impact offenders’ already tenuous relationship with society. Third, Shaw contends that we should not confer the state the power to change an offender’s values because the state lacks insight into what constitutes the right values. I contend that none of these arguments should prevent the use of value-targeting DBIs. First, I show that the dialogue requirement for rehabilitative schemes is insufficient ground from which to oppose the use of these DBIs. Second, I show that it is doubtful that the use of DBIs as proposed would damage the relationship between offenders and society. Finally, although the state may often lack insight into what constitutes the correct values, this lack of insight should not by itself prevent value-targeting DBIs from being employed on certain groups of offenders.


Direct Brain Interventions Rehabilitation Objectification Punishment 



The author extends his gratitude to Professor Jesper Ryberg, Kristian Kragh, Cecilia Vollmer and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication and ArtsRoskilde UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  2. 2.HelsingoerDenmark

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