Re'em Segev
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The question of whether a mistake of law should negate or mitigate criminal liability is commonly considered to be pertinent to the culpability of the agent, often examined in light of the (epistemic) reasonableness of the mistake. I argue that this view disregards an important aspect of this question, namely whether a mistake of law affects the rightness of the action, particularly in light of the moral significance of the mistake. I argue that several plausible premises, regarding moral rightness under uncertainty, the nature of law and the moral significance of law, entail a positive answer to this question. Specifically, I consider this argument: (1) one (subjective) sense of moral rightness depends on the (epistemically justified) belief of the agent concerning a non-moral fact that is morally significant; (2) a law is (partly) a non-moral fact; (3) a legal fact might be morally significant; (4) therefore an action that is compatible with an applicable moral standard, in light of the mistaken (justified) belief of the agent concerning a morally significant law, is (subjectively) right or less wrongful; (5) the (subjective) moral rightness of an action counts against criminal liability for this action; (6) therefore an action that is compatible with the applicable moral standard, in light of the mistaken (epistemically justified) belief of the agent, counts against criminal liability for the action if the law is morally significant.
Keywords Moral Rightness  Moral Significance  The Nature of Law  Criminal Liability  Mistake of Law
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 59,864
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Justification Under Uncertainty.Re’em Segev - 2012 - Law and Philosophy 31 (5):523-563.
Subjective Rightness.Holly M. Smith - 2010 - Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (2):64-110.
Legislative Duty and the Independence of Law.J. H. Bogart - 1987 - Law and Philosophy 6 (2):187 - 203.
Can Tort Law Be Moral?Avihay Dorfman - 2010 - Ratio Juris 23 (2):205-228.
Legal and Moral Responsibility.Antony Duff - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (6):978-986.
The Basis of Moral Liability to Defensive Killing.Jeff McMahan - 2005 - Philosophical Issues 15 (1):386–405.
The Moral Authority of International Law.Anthony Reeves - 2010 - APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Law 10 (1):13-18.
Why Criminal Law: A Question of Content? [REVIEW]Douglas Husak - 2008 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 2 (2):99-122.


Added to PP index

Total views
65 ( #158,885 of 2,433,136 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #463,753 of 2,433,136 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes