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Mission Statement

Network for Law and the Cognitive Sciences (LACS)

Mission Statement

Mission Statement

The past few decades have seen an increasing interest, among legal scholars, philosophers and scientists, in the potential relevance of the cognitive sciences for the field of law. The rise of the cognitive sciences in general, and cognitive neuroscience in particular, raises new questions and concerns that are of great importance for both legal theory and practice.

Central to many of these questions and concerns lies the fundamental issue of how to understand, explain and relate the different legal and scientific images of a human being. On the one hand, the law accepts to a large extent a folk-psychological view of human beings as free, rational, and responsible persons. On the other hand, the dominant scientific view of human beings is that of complex bio-physical systems, whose cognitive and behavioural processes supervene on physico-chemical processes, which in turn are subject to natural laws. Moreover, this scientific view invites the consideration of a legal treatment of other ‘intelligent’ physical systems analogous to the treatment of human beings.

The seeming conflict between the two images of humanity demands for a critical reflection, not only on the foundations and practices of the law, but also on the basic presuppositions that underlie the cognitive sciences and the societal implications of these sciences.

The purpose of the Network for Law and the Cognitive Sciences (LACS) is to:

  • promote critical understanding of the possible intersections between law and the cognitive sciences, including relevant branches of philosophy;
  • stimulate and conduct interdisciplinary research in the fields of law and the cognitive sciences;
  • investigate and discuss new theoretical and practical developments in and around the cognitive sciences and how these may affect the law and its institutions;
  • serve as a forum for cross-disciplinary dialogue on the presuppositions and argumentative patterns that underlie the different images of mankind in law and the sciences.

In view of an open cross-disciplinary collaboration, the Network has chosen a broad perspective on what constitutes the fields of law and the cognitive sciences. For the purpose of the Network, law includes not only the different branches of positive law, but also legal theory, legal philosophy and the sociology of law. The cognitive sciences include both cognitive and moral psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience and artificial intelligence, as well as philosophies of mind, epistemology, and disciplines studying the socio-cultural influences on cognitive processes.

With this broad perspective, LACS sets itself apart from other networks that are mostly focused on neurolaw or law and artificial intelligence and endeavours to broaden and interrelate the different fields of research to the larger context of the cognitive sciences. It particularly seeks to explore:

  • (legal) philosophical and theoretical inquiries and starting points, incorporating and often transcending specific fields of law, in close dialogue with different philosophies of mind.
  • Comparative legal research; as much of the current discussions on law and the cognitive sciences centre on the Anglo-American common law systems, LACS aims to place greater emphasis on the European civil law traditions.
  • Different fields of (positive) law; as much research is still focused on the relevance of the cognitive sciences for criminal law, LACS seeks to address all fields of law.

The main activities of LACS are:

  • organizing conferences, workshops and expert meetings;
  • organizing courses and other educational activities;
  • publishing the results of its activities in journal articles and books and on the internet;
  • showcasing and connecting interdisciplinary research initiatives across Europe;
  • promoting its activities by means of newsletter and social media.

At present, the Network comprises researchers from a broad range of European academic institutions (such as the Universities of Maastricht, Krakow, Nijmegen, Tilburg, Utrecht, Bologna). It welcomes members from different backgrounds including lawyers, cognitive scientists, psychologists, philosophers, ethicists and policy makers.

Those who are interested in participating can send an email message to: