Can the state, as opposed to its individual human members in their personal capacity, intelligibly seek to avoid blame for unjustified wrongdoing by invoking excuses (as opposed to justifications)? Insofar as it can, should such claims ever be given moral and legal recognition? While a number of theorists have denied it in passing, the question remains radically underexplored. -/- In this article (in its penultimate draft version), I seek to identify the main metaphysical and moral objections to state excuses, and (...) begin to investigate their strength. I work from the ecumenical assumption that general understandings of modern states as group moral agents proper or as mere fictional points of imputation for individual behaviour are both plausible, and that the question of state excuses should be asked in terms of both paradigms. Issues addressed include: the lack of state consciousness/affect, the nature and relevance of developmental and executive defects in group agents, the value of state interests and how interests relate to plausible claims of excuses, the shortfall of responsibility argument for group responsibility and its interface with state excuses, the symbolic and consequential (dis)value that state excuses may have, as well as concerns that states are entities that should live up to outstandingly high virtuous standards of impartiality and equanimity. -/- I conclude that even if the range of excuses available to states does not overlap neatly with excuses available to ordinary individuals, some excuses may still be morally available to states. More generally, I emphasize the need for a systematic discussion of group excuses writ large, and of their relationship with the wider question of when group entities may legitimately be singled out to bear adverse normative consequences for wrongdoing. (shrink)
What are emergencies and why do they matter? In this chapter (in its penultimate version), I seek to outline the morally significant features of the concept of emergency, and demonstrate how these features generate corresponding first- and second-order challenges and responsibilities for those in a position to do something about them. In section A, I contend that emergencies are situations in which there is a risk of serious harm and a need to react urgently if that harm is to be (...) averted or minimized. These conceptual features matter morally, since it is precisely to them that those who invoke emergencies to justify otherwise impermissible actions tend to appeal. The basic first-order challenge facing emergency responders is two-fold. It is, first, to identify how these features shape circumstances of action in ways that affect (or do not affect) which reasons for action and which corresponding courses of conduct are justifiably available to them. In situations when emergency responders are compelled to make authoritative determinations due to significant contestability and indeterminacies in the contours or materialization of the said features, their challenge is then also to make these determinations legitimately. In section B, I argue that second-order challenges having to do with the foreseeability of emergencies, the value(s) of exposure to them, and their preventability further compound the predicament of emergency responders. I conclude, in section C, by saying a few words about one last morally salient feature shared by many, though not all, emergencies considered in the chapter — namely, their public dimension. (shrink)
In this article, I ask whether the state, as opposed to its individual members, can intelligibly and legitimately be criminalized, with a focus on the possibility of its domestic criminalization. I proceed by identifying what I take to be the core objections to such criminalization, and then investigate ways in which they can be challenged. First, I address the claim that the state is not a kind of entity that can intelligibly perpetrate domestic criminal wrongs. I argue against it by (...) building upon an account of the modern state as a moral agent proper, capable of both culpable moral and legal wrongdoing. I then consider objections to the intelligibility and legitimacy of subjecting states to domestic criminal processes, which primarily find their source in the assumption that such subjection would necessarily involve the state prosecuting, judging, and punishing itself. I argue that whether this (questionable) assumption is sound or not, it does not create the kinds of unsolvable quandaries its exponents think it does. I then move on to reject the distinct, yet related, objection that, at least in aspiring liberal jurisdictions, treating the state as a criminal objectionably involves extending to it various substantive and procedural guarantees that, given its nature and raison d’être, it should not have. Finally, I discuss three central objections to punishing the state. First, that organizations like states do not have the phenomenal consciousness required to suffer punishment. Second, that the constant possibility of dispersion of state punishment amongst individual members stands in the way of its justification. Lastly, that whatever justification there may be for making things harder for the state in response to its culpable wrongdoing, such treatment need not be understood as punishment. While partially conceding the strength of these objections, I strive to loosen their grip in ways that show that justified punishment of the state, meaningfully understood as such, remains a distinct possibility. I conclude by contrasting supposed alternatives to the criminalization of states, and by contending that my analysis leaves us with enough to keep the possibility of state criminalization on the table as a justifiable response to state wrongdoing. (shrink)
In this essay, I address one methodological aspect of Victor Tadros's The Ends of Harm--namely, the moral character of the theory of criminal punishment it defends. First, I offer a brief reconstruction of this dimension of the argument, highlighting some of its distinctive strengths while drawing attention to particular inconsistencies. I then argue that Tadros ought to refrain from developing this approach in terms of an overly narrow understanding of the morality of harming as fully unified and reconciled under the (...) lone heading of justice. In a final and most critical section, I offer arguments for why this reconciliatory commitment, further constrained by a misplaced emphasis on corrective justice, generates major problems for his general deterrence account of the core justification of criminal punishment. (shrink)
Some legal theorists deny that states can conceivably act extra-legally, in the sense of acting contrary to domestic law. This position finds its most robust articulation in the writings of Hans Kelsen, and has more recently been taken up by David Dyzenhaus in the context of his work on emergencies and legality. This paper seeks to demystify their arguments and, ultimately, contend that we can intelligibly speak of the state as a legal wrongdoer or a legally unauthorized actor.
In this article, I seek to make sense of the oft-invoked idea of 'public emergency' and of some of its (supposedly) radical moral implications. I challenge controversial claims by Tom Sorell, Michael Walzer, and Giorgio Agamben, and argue for a more discriminating understanding of the category and its moral force.