Character, purpose, and criminal responsibility

Law and Philosophy 1 (1):5 - 20 (1982)
This paper explores analyzing criminal responsibility from the Humean position that blame is for character traits. If untoward acts indicate undesirable character traits, then the agent is blameworthy; if they do not, then the actor is not blameworthy — he has an excuse. A distinctive feature of this approach is that that voluntariness of acts is irrelevant to determining blameworthiness.This analysis is then applied to a variety of issues in criminal law. Mens supports inferences to character traits, and the Humean approach provides a reason for rejeting strict criminal liability. The Humean approach also helps resolve a number of issues about attempts, such as punishment for impossible attempts and the defense of abandonment. It also supports the broad outlines of the defense of mistake and provides a third alternative in the Wooton-Hart debate over punishment and treatment.
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DOI 10.1007/BF00143144
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