Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 575–589 | Cite as

Complicity: That Moral Monster, Troubling Matters

  • Peter A. French
Original Paper


In the criminal law of many jurisdictions complicity, though not itself a substantive crime but a way of committing a crime, is a doctrine that determines when one person is legally liable for a criminal offense that was committed by another person, typically by being an accomplice. That doctrine has a number of troubling moral implications with respect to responsibility, particularly when complicity is employed as a devise to capture one agent as morally accountable for the actions of another agent and/or the consequences of those actions. I focus on the issue of responsibility for consequences and actus reus and mens rea difficulties with complicity as a moral concept in the light of two cases in which complicity is the basis for ascriptions of moral and criminal responsibility to someone who was not the primary wrongdoer. The book on the topic by Chiara Lepora and Robert E. Goodin provokes my discussion.


Complicity Consequences Moral responsibility Complicity simplicter Synchronic and diachronic responsibility Risk Intention Resultant moral luck 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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