Round Table “LiAbility: Brains & Automata”, 12 December 2012, 16.00-18.00

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LiAbility imageMax Weber Programme Round Table

Organizers: Sofia Moratti Baggio, Hin-Yan Liu, Migle Laukyte & Jean Thomas, Max Weber Fellows


Dennis Patterson, EUI 
Giovanni Sartor, EUI
Corrado Roversi, University of Bologna
Sofia Moratti, EUI
Migle Laukyte, EUI


View Round table flyer (pdf)
View Programme (pdf) 


Intent is a mental state that directs actors to achieve a certain state of affairs, fulfil an objective, or satisfy a need. It is one of the sources of criminal and civil law responsibility (liability). In law, this mental state is attributed only to natural persons (humans) and artificial persons (e.g., corporations).

The purpose of this roundtable is to look at the legal concept of intent and to discuss its relation to liability through the interdisciplinary lens of other research fields. The relationship will be discussed from a variety of perspectives: neuroscientific, computational, legal-theoretical and philosophical.

Sofia Moratti & Dennis Patterson will present the debate among criminal law and law & neuroscience scholars on human free will, legal capacity, voluntary action and liability. The speakers shall argue that recent neuroscientific findings regarding decision-making in human brains do not undermine the foundations of the criminal law, and are not a ground for a reappraisal of current theories of punishment.

Migle Laukyte & Giovanni Sartor will discuss intent as one of the elements of the belief-desireintention (BDI) software model, which enables the rational computing agent to work without input from the outside. This does not mean, however, that AI has actually built an intentional artificial entity: it only designs such entities ‘as if’ they were intentional. One way to think about the intentionality of artificial entities in the law is through a model
the speakers call ‘as if’ intentionality, on which basis we can analogise the actions of artificial entities to those of humans. We already impute legal consequences to humans and agents alike in areas like e-commerce, where both are recognized as having the capacity to make contracts. The computational intentionality so understood (as framed by beliefs, desires, and intentions) strengthens the trend in moving from phenomenological functional intentionality in law.

Corrado Roversi will present the current debate on collective intentionality in social and legal ontology and critically address the positions of prominent thinkers including John Searle, Ryle Gilbert, and Raimo Tuomela.
All welcome to attend – for logistical reasons, please register with Susan Garvin.