Gideon Yaffe presents a theory of criminal responsibility according to which child criminals deserve leniency not because of their psychological, behavioural, or neural immaturity but because they are denied the vote. He argues that full shares of criminal punishment are deserved only by those who have a full share of say over the law.
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. Yaffe's clear account of what it is to try to do something promises to resolve the difficulties courts face in the adjudication of attempted crimes.
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)
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)
This paper considers the question of why the non-citizenship of offenders poses an obstacle to their criminal punishment. Several proposals are rejected, including Antony Duff’s proposal. It is proposed, instead, that governments are not authorized to punish any offender who cannot be attributed with the norm he violates. The government cannot attribute the norm that a non-citizen violates to him, if the non-citizen can raise in his favor the fact that he has no say over the law. Under certain circumstances, (...) such as when they are visiting, non-citizens cannot raise this point, and so can be attributed with the norms they violate. (shrink)
Under the “Willful Ignorance Principle,” a defendant is guilty of a crime requiring knowledge he lacks provided he is ignorant thanks to having earlier omitted inquiry. In this paper, I offer a novel justification of this principle through application of the theory that knowledge matters to culpability because of how the knowing action manifests the agent’s failure to grant sufficient weight to other people’s interests. I show that, under a simple formal model that supports this theory, omitting inquiry manifests precisely (...) the same degree of disregard of others’ interests as manifested in knowingly acting criminally. Several surprising implications of this view are described, including that when the agent’s method of inquiry has a non-zero false positive rate, his omission of inquiry does not make the same contribution to his culpability as knowledge, while it does, by contrast, when the false negative rate is non-zero. (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)
This is the first comprehensive interpretation of John Locke's solution to one of philosophy's most enduring problems: free will and the nature of human agency. Many assume that Locke defines freedom as merely the dependency of conduct on our wills. And much contemporary philosophical literature on free agency regards freedom as a form of self-expression in action. Here, Gideon Yaffe shows us that Locke conceived free agency not just as the freedom to express oneself, but as including also the freedom (...) to transcend oneself and act in accordance with "the good." For Locke, exercising liberty involves making choices guided by what is good, valuable, and important. Thus, Locke's view is part of a tradition that finds freedom in the imitation of God's agency. Locke's free agent is the ideal agent. Yaffe also examines Locke's understanding of volition and voluntary action. For Locke, choices always involve self-consciousness. The kind of self-consciousness to which Locke appeals is intertwined with his conception of personal identity. And it is precisely this connection between the will and personal identity that reveals the special sense in which our voluntary actions can be attributed to us and the special sense in which we are active with respect to them. Deftly written and tightly focused, Liberty Worth the Name will find readers far beyond Locke studies and early modern British philosophy, including scholars interested in free will, action theory, and ethics. (shrink)
John Yolton has argued that Locke held a direct realist position according to which sensory ideas are not perceived intermediaries, as on the representational realist position, but acts that take material substances as objects. This paper argues that were Locke to accept the position Yolton attributes to him he could not at once account for appearance‐reality discrepancies and maintain one of his most important anti‐nativist arguments. The paper goes on to offer an interpretation of Locke's distinction between ideas of substances (...) and modes, a distinction that helps Locke to explain appearance‐reality discrepancies, although not in a large enough range of cases to strengthen Yolton's interpretation. (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.
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)
Criminal defendants cannot be punished unless found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Under probabilistic accounts, this means that the probability of guilt given the evidence is above a certain numerical threshold, such as 0.9. Under psychological accounts, by contrast, what is essential is that a factfinder reaches a certain psychological attitude toward guilt, such as certainty or unwavering belief, when contemplating the evidence. An adequate account should provide a normative explanation for why guilt BARD warrants punishment. Psychological accounts are more (...) likely to meet this challenge than probabilistic, it is argued. The permissibility of punishment is likely to be relative to the cognitive attitudes of the punisher, but not to the conditional probability of guilt in light of the evidence. (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)
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)
Michael Bratman's work has been unusually influential, with significance in disciplines as diverse as philosophy, computer science, law, and primatology.The essays in this volume engage with ideas and themes prominent in Bratman's work. The volume also includes a lengthy reply by Bratman that breaks new ground and deepens our understanding of the nature of action.
This paper discusses Douglas Husak’s view that ignorance of the law always reduces culpability since the only fully culpable agents are those who are akratic—who act, that is, in a way that they judge to be wrongful, all things considered. The paper argues that this position is in tension with Husak’s avowed commitment to a reasons-responsiveness theory of culpability, given a plausible way of understanding what that means, and what a reason is.
Much government and personal conduct is premised on the idea that a person made thereby to suffer deserves that suffering thanks to prior wrongdoing by him. Further, it often appears that one kind of suffering is more deserved than another and, in light of that, conduct inflicting the first is superior, or closer to being justified than conduct inflicting the second. Yet desert is mysterious. It is far from obvious what, exactly, it is. This paper offers and argues for a (...) theory of comparative desert. It offers an account of the conditions under which one harm is more deserved for past wrongdoing than another. The theory offered here can be stated, roughly, like so: One harm is more deserved for a wrongful act than another if, in light of it more than the other, the act is supported by reasons for the agent in a way similar to the way it ought to have been supported by reasons for him. The central task of the paper is to explain, elaborate and offer an argument for this theory. The paper also shows that, under the theory, differences in culpability—as between, for instance, intentionally rather than knowingly bringing about a harm—make a difference to desert. And the paper shows that under the proposed theory it is easier for the state to justify inflicting a punishment that is more deserved than it is to justify inflicting a punishment that is less deserved. (shrink)
It was common enough in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to find philosophers holding the position that for something to be ‘in the mind’ and for that mind to be conscious of it are one and the same thing. The thought is that consciousness is a relation between a mind and a mental entity playing the same role as the relation of inherence found between a substance and qualities belonging to it. What it is, on this view, for something to (...) ‘inhere’ in the mind is for that mind to be conscious of it. Locke was explicit in his acceptance of such a claim, writing, for instance,[T]o be in the Mind, and, never to be perceived, is all one, as to say, any thing is, and is not, in the Mind. (shrink)
Reid argues that Hume’s claim that justice is an artificial virtue is inconsistent with the fact that gratitude is a natural sentiment. This chapter shows that Reid’s argument succeeds only given a philosophy of mind and action that Hume rejects. Among other things, Reid assumes that one can conceive of one of a pair of contradictories only if one can conceive of the other—a claim that Hume denies. So, in the case of justice, the disagreement between Hume and Reid is, (...) at bottom, a disagreement over their respective conceptions of how the human mind works at its most fundamental level. (shrink)
It’s not uncommon for people to try to shield themselves from blame or punishment by saying, “But everybody does that!”. This BEDT defense seems more appealing as a defense to some offenses than to others. In a neglected paper, Doug Husak describes various types of crime to which the BEDT ought, he argues, be a defense. This paper extends his work by identifying a category he overlooks. The paper argues that often the BEDT shields from blame and punishment because the (...) prevalence of the offense in the community shows that the punisher does not speak for the community when issuing the punishment. Since the punisher’s authority depends on its doing so, the BEDT shows in such cases that the punisher should stay its hand. (shrink)
This paper is concerned to bring out the philosophical contribution that Thomas Reid makes in his discussions of promising. Reid discusses promising in two contexts: he argues that the practice of promising presupposes the belief that the promisor is endowed with what he calls 'active power' , and he argues against Hume's claim that the very act of promising—and the obligation to do as one promised—are "artificial," or the products of human convention . In addition to explaining what Reid says (...) in each of these two contexts, the paper demonstrates that the two discussions are linked. It is, in part, because he thinks that promises are a special kind of act —performable solely through the exercise of our native, natural capacities—that he thinks that the practice of promising presupposes active power. Towards this end, the paper explains how Reid conceives of active power and explains his concept of a social act. The paper argues that, when considered as part of a single, unitary conception of the nature of promises, Reid's two discussions provide important insights into the nature of promising, particularly with regard to the sense in which promisory obligations are conditional: they are conditional upon a rather short list of circumstances that are not within our power—a shorter list than those on which other obligations are conditional. (shrink)
The philosophy of punishment’s focus on the question of justification has left the question of definition neglected. This article explains why there is a need for necessary and sufficient conditions for punishment and offers a new account. Under the theory proposed, to inflict a punishment is to make fewer things permissible for another to do. Since not every such restriction is punishment, an account is offered of the additional conditions needing to be met. One implication of the resulting theory is (...) that some prominent cases in which the question of definition needed to be answered were wrongly decided. (shrink)