Courts and commentators are notoriously puzzled about the mens rea standards for complicity. Accomplices intend to aid, but what attitude need they have towards the crimes that they aid? This paper both criticizes extant accounts of the mens rea of complicity and offers a new account. The paper argues that an intention can commit one to an event’s occurrence without committing one to promoting the event, or making it more likely to take place. Under the proposed account of the mens (...) rea of complicity, an accomplice must have an intention that commits him to the crime’s occurrence, but need not commit him to making it more likely that the crime occurs. The paper traces the implications of this view both for several difficult complicity cases, and for ongoing debates among philosophers of action about the necessary and sufficient conditions of joint agency. (shrink)
In Michael Moore's important book Causation and Responsibility, he holds that causal contribution matters to responsibility independently of its relevance to action. We are responsible for our actions, according to Moore, because where there is action, we typically also find the kind of causal contribution that is crucial for responsibility. But it is causation, and not action, that bears the normative weight. This paper assesses this claim and argues that Moore's reasons for it are unconvincing. It is suggested that sometimes (...) a person's responsibility for that to which he causally contributes depends on his recognition of an identity between himself and the protagonist of the event for which he is held responsible. Since this fact about identity is not captured by causal contribution, action matters to responsibility for reasons that are not exhausted by the fact that action involves causal contribution. The relevance of this idea for accomplice liability is also briefly discussed. (shrink)
Gideon Yaffe presents a ground-breaking work which demonstrates the importance of philosophy of action for the law. Many people are serving sentences not for completing crimes, but for trying to. So the law governing attempted crimes is of practical as well as theoretical importance. Questions arising in the adjudication of attempts intersect with questions in the philosophy of action, such as what intention a person must have, if any, and what a person must do, if anything, to be trying to (...) act. Yaffe offers solutions to the difficult problems courts face in the adjudication of attempted crimes. He argues that the problems courts face admit of principled solution through reflection either on what it is to try to do something; or on what evidence is required for someone to be shown to have tried to do something; or on what sentence for an attempt is fair given the close relation between attempts and completions. The book argues that to try to do something is to be committed by one's intention to each of the components of success and to be guided by those commitments. Recognizing the implications of this simple and plausible position helps us to identify principled grounds on which the courts ought to distinguish between defendants charged with attempted crimes. (shrink)
Whether we understand it descriptively or normatively, the slogan that ignorance of the law is no excuse is false. Our legal system sometimes excuses those who are ignorant of the law on those grounds and should. Still, the slogan contains a grain of truth; mistakes of law excuse less readily than mistakes of fact, and ought to. This paper explains the asymmetry by identifying a principle of excuse of the form “If defendant D has a false belief that p and (...) _____, then D is excused”, which has the following feature: it is true frequently when p is a non-legal proposition, but it is false often when p is a proposition about the law. Under this principle of excuse, mistakes excuse by showing the agent to have acceptable commitments for recognizing, weighing, and responding to reasons. Many mistakes of fact show this; they show that the agent’s deliberation led to objectionable action because of faulty inputs and not to fault in the deliberation itself. Mistakes of law, by contrast, frequently indicate that the agent has faulty commitments when it comes to legal reasons; they therefore do not provide excuse under the proposed principle of excuse. It is argued that this explanation of the asymmetry between mistakes of fact and law takes us a great distance towards explaining the relevance of mental state to responsibility, an issue of great importance to moral philosophy. (shrink)
Locke claimed that God superadded various powers to matter, including motion, the perfections of peach trees and elephants, gravity, and that he could superadd thought. Various interpreters have discussed the question whether Locke's claims about superaddition are in tension with his commitment to mechanistic explanation. This literature assumes that for Locke mechanistic explanation involves deducibility. We argue that this is an inaccurate interpretation and that mechanistic explanation involves a different type of intelligibility for Locke.
Manifest Activity presents and critically examines the model of human power, the will, our capacities for purposeful conduct, and the place of our agency in the natural world of one of the most important and traditionally under-appreciated philosophers of the 18th century: Thomas Reid. For Reid, contrary to the view of many of his predecessors, it is simply manifest that we are active with respect to our behaviours; it is manifest, he thinks, that our actions are not merely remote products (...) of forces that lie outside of our control. Reid holds, instead, that actions are all and only those events that spring from active power and he produces insightful and imaginative arguments for the claim that only a creature with a mind is capable of having active power. He believes that only human beings, and creatures 'above us', are capable of directing events towards ends, of endowing them with purpose or direction, the distinctive feature of action. However, he also holds that all events, and not merely human actions, are products of active power, power possessed either by human beings or by God. This collection of theses leads Reid to the view that human behaviour and the progress of nature are both essentially teleological. Patterns in nature are the products of laws of which God is the author; patterns in human conduct are the products of character and the laws that individuals set for themselves. Manifest Activity examines Reid's arguments for this view and the view's implications for the nature of character, motivation and the special kind of causation involved in the production of human behavior. (shrink)
Manipulation by another person often undermines freedom. To explain this, a distinction is drawn between two forms of manipulation: indoctrination is defined as causing another person to respond to reasons in a pattern that serves the manipulator’s ends; coercion as supplying another person with reasons that, given the pattern in which he responds to reasons, lead him to act in ways that serve the manipulator’s ends. It is argued that both forms of manipulation undermine freedom because manipulators track the compliance (...) of their victims, while neutral causal mechanisms do not. Manipulators see to it that their victims comply even in the face of forces that threaten to derail them from the manipulator’s desired course. It is suggested that this has an impact on freedom because part of what we desire in wanting to be free is the availability of forms of life very different from those we actually enjoy. (shrink)
In his 'Inquiry', Reid claims, against Berkeley, that there is a science of the perspectival shapes of objects ('visible figures'): they are geometrically equivalent to shapes projected onto the surfaces of spheres. This claim should be understood as asserting that for every theorem regarding visible figures there is a corresponding theorem regarding spherical projections; the proof of the theorem regarding spherical projections can be used to construct a proof of the theorem regarding visible figures, and vice versa. I reconstruct Reid's (...) argument for this claim, and expose its mathematical underpinnings: it is successful, and depends on no empirical assumptions to which he was not entitled about the workings of the human eye. I also argue that, although Reid may or may not have been aware of it, the geometry of spherical projections is not the only geometry of visible figure. (shrink)