, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 385-403
Date: 18 Jul 2012

A Retributive Justification for not Punishing Bare Intentions or: On the Moral Relevance of the ‘Now-Belief’

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Abstract

According to criminal law a person should not be punished for a bare intention to commit a crime. While theorists have provided consequentialist and epistemic justifications of this tenet, no convincing retributive justification thereof has yet been advanced. The present paper attempts to fill this lacuna through arguing that there is an important moral difference between a future-directed and a present-directed intention to act wrongfully. Such difference is due to the restraining influence exercised in the decisional process by the ‘now-belief’, i.e. the belief that the time has come to act, which is exclusively involved in the latter type of intention.

I am indebted to Mike Redmayne, Jules Coleman, Kimberly Ferzan, Larry Alexander, Anna Ichino, Giambattista Picinali, Emmanuel Melissaris, Stefano Bertea, Melania Villa, and to the journal’s referees for our valued exchanges during the research for this paper and for their valuable comments on and criticisms of earlier versions thereof.