, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 49-55

Excuses, moral and legal: a comment on Marcia Baron’s ‘excuses, excuses’

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Marcia Baron has offered an illuminating and fruitful discussion of extra-legal excuses. What is particularly useful, and particularly important, is her focus on our excusatory practices—on the ways and contexts in which we make, offer, accept, bestow and reject excuses: if we are to reach an adequate understanding of excuses, their implications and their grounds, we must attend to the roles that they can play in our human activities and relationships—and to the complexities and particularities of those roles. However, I want to focus my comments less on the details of Baron’s discussions of excuses in extra-legal contexts than on the implications of her discussion for our understanding of excuses in the criminal law. What light (if any, a sceptic might add) can such analyses of our extra-legal concepts and practices throw on legal concepts and doctrines?

Moral and legal exculpation

Baron believes, as do many other theorists, that ‘the concepts of justification and excuse should function