, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 89-98
Date: 16 Sep 2009

Understanding Criminal Law through the Lens of Reason

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In 1968, H.L.A. Hart, who was then in his last year as Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford, published a collection of his past essays on criminal law theory which he complemented with a postscript (Hart 1968). Four decades later, his most recent successor in title, John Gardner, offers us a similarly organised compilation—Offences and Defences: Selected Essays in the Philosophy of Criminal Law—in which a Reply to Critics is substituted for the postscript. Hart’s collection is widely acknowledged as one of his foremost contributions to the philosophy of law and, to this day, remains one of the foundational texts in criminal law theory. In Offences and Defences, John Gardner carries the Oxonian torch admirably in terms of both depth and innovation. He provides us with a remarkably rich, coherent, and thought-provoking set of arguments that will no doubt join Hart’s among the classic starting-points for philosophical inquiry about the criminal law.

I say that Gardner’s c ...