Mental time travel, agency, and responsibility

Jeanette Kennett, Stephen Matthews

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


We have argued elsewhere (2002) that moral responsibility over time depends in part upon the having of psychological connections which facilitate forms of self-control. In this paper we explore the importance of mental time travel ' our ordinary ability to mentally travel to temporal locations outside the present, involving both memory of our personal past and the ability to imagine ourselves in the future ' to our agential capacities for planning and control. We suggest that in many individuals with dissociative disorders, forms of amnesia, or other frontal lobe damage, our capacity for mental time travel is impaired, resulting in commensurate losses to agency, autonomy, and a forensic condition essential for holding persons responsible: in legal terms, the capacity for mens rea.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience
EditorsMatthew Broome, Lisa Bortolotti
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780199238033
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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