Emergencies and criminal law in Kant's legal philosophy

Ethic@ - An International Journal for Moral Philosophy 16 (3):459-474 (2017)
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Despite Kant's explicit statement that every murderer must suffer death, there are at least four situations to be found in Kant's work in which the killing of a human being should not lead to the death penalty: when too many murderers are involved; when a mother kills her illegitimate child; when one duellist kills the other; when one person pushes another off a plank in order to save his life. This paper discusses these situation and concentrates on the last situation - Kant's interpretation of the plank of Carneades – with an eye to what they learn us about Kant understanding of the law. Does Kant acknowledge a legal vacuum? In order to come to a conclusion, Kant's 'solution' of the plank is compared with those suggested by other authors, such as Cicero, Pufendorf and Lon Fuller in his famous 'speluncean explorers' case.



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Thomas Mertens
Radboud University Nijmegen

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