Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 307–326 | Cite as

Why criminal harms matter: Plato’s abiding insight in the Laws

Original Paper

Abstract

Commentators have contested the role of resulting harm in criminal law since the time of Plato. Unfortunately, they have neglected what may be not only the best discussion of the issue, but also the first—namely, Plato’s one-paragraph discussion in the Laws. Plato’s discussion succeeds in reconciling two, seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints that till now have been in stalemate. Thus, Plato reconciles the view, that an offender’s desert is solely a function of his subjective willingness to act in disregard of the legitimate interests of others, with the view that criminal sentences can appropriately be made to depend upon how indignant, angry, and upset society is at an offender based upon the results of his culpable conduct. In doing so, Plato casts light on retributive theories of punishment by suggesting that an adjudicator can be committed to retribution and yet rightly believe that it is inappropriate to give an offender the full punishment he deserves. He also lays a basis for the view that causation, rather being predicates for the just punishment of offenders toward whom the public is intuitively angry for harm, is the consequence of the public’s being intuitively angry at offenders for harm.

Keywords

Harm Desert Punishment Plato Causation 

References

  1. American Law Institute (1985). Model penal code and commentaries, pt. I, sections 3.01 to 5.07, p. 490. Philadelphia: American Law Institute.Google Scholar
  2. Ashworth, A. (1987). Defining criminal offences without harm. In P. Smith (Ed.), Criminal law: Essays in honour of J.C. Smith, Vol. 7. London: Butterworths.Google Scholar
  3. Ashworth, A. (1993). Taking the consequences. In S. Shute, J. Gardner, & J. Horder (Eds.), Action and value in criminal law (pp 107–124). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  4. Ashworth, A. (1988a). Criminal attempts and the role of resulting harm under the code, and in the common law. Rutgers Law Journal, 19, 725.Google Scholar
  5. Ashworth, A. (1988b). The role of resulting harm (pp. 736–738, 742–744, 749–750). Camden, New Jersey: Rutgers School of Law.Google Scholar
  6. Bentham, J. (1907). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation (p. 194). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  7. Blumenthal, R. (2006). The New York Times, February 16, 2006, section A, p. 28, col. 1.Google Scholar
  8. Bumiller, E., & Blumenthal, R. (2006). The New York Times, February 18, section A, p. 16, col. 1.Google Scholar
  9. Bumiller, E., & Kornblut, A. (2006). The New York Times, February 15, 2006, section A, p. 1, col. 6.Google Scholar
  10. Burkhardt, B. (1986). Is there a rational justification for punishing an accomplished crime more severely than an attempted crime? Brigham Young University Law Review, 553, 556.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, E. (1977). Distinctions among blame concepts. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 38, 515–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dan-Cohen, M. (1983). Causation. In S. Kadish (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice, Vol. 1 (p. 166). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Davis, M. (1986). Why attempts deserve less punishment than complete crimes. Law and Philosophy, 5(1), 28–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duff, R. A. (1990). Intention, agency and criminal liability (pp. 184–192). Oxford: Oxford University.Google Scholar
  15. Duff, A. (1993). Acting, trying and criminal liability. In S. Shute, J. Gardner, & J. Horder (Eds.), Action and value in criminal law (pp 107–124). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  16. Duff, R. A. (1996). Criminal attempts (pp. 116–127, 327–347). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fergus, C. (2006). The New York Times, February 18, 2006, section D, p. 6, col. 5.Google Scholar
  18. Fletcher, G. (1988). A crime of self-defense: Bernhard Goetz and the law on trial, 82. The Free Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kadish, S. (1994a). The criminal law and the luck of the draw. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 84, 679.Google Scholar
  20. Kadish, S. (1994b). The luck of the draw. Evanston, Illinois: University of Northwestern School of Law.Google Scholar
  21. LaFave W. (2003). Criminal law (4th ed., pp. 939–944). St. Paul: West Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  22. Lyman, R. (2006). The New York Times, February 18, section A, p. 10, col. 6.Google Scholar
  23. Mackenzie, M. (1981). Plato on punishment. Berkeley: University of California.Google Scholar
  24. Moore, M. (1994). The independent moral significance of wrongdoing. The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, 5, 237–281.Google Scholar
  25. Moore, M. (1997). Placing blame (pp. 191–247). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  26. Moore, M. (2000). The metaphysics of causal intervention. California Law Review, 88, 827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Morse, M. (2004). Reason, results, and criminal responsibility. University of Illinois Law Review, 363, 420.Google Scholar
  28. Saunders, T. (1991). Plato’s penal code. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  29. Schulhofer, S. (1974). Harm and punishment, punishment: A critique of emphasis on the results of conduct in the criminal law. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 122, 1497, 1562–1585.Google Scholar
  30. Schulhofer, S. (1983). Attempt. In: S. Kadish (Eds.) Encyclopedia of crime and justice, Vol. 1 (p. 97). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  31. Westen, P. (1991). Speaking of equality: The rhetoric of “equality”. In Law and morals. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Williams, B. (1981). Moral luck. In Moral luck, Vol. 20 (pp. 27–31). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Frank G. Millard Professor of LawMichigan UniversitySanta FeUSA

Personalised recommendations