Philosophy | Philosophy of Law
P375 | 3401 | Baron
Prerequisite: one course in philosophy
The focus of this course is philosophical issues in criminal law.
After examining some basic principles of law, we'll ask "What
justifies punishment?" and "what sorts of things should be illegal,
We'll then discuss the two key elements of (almost) any crime: The
actus reus (that the accused actually did something illegal, or
omitted to do something required by law, and didn't merely intend to)
and the mental component or mens rea (that the agent has a "guilty
mind" and intended to commit the act, or knew she was committing it,
or acted recklessly or negligently.) We will pay particular attention
to mens rea issues. Should negligence ever suffice to meet the mens
rea requirement? What mens rea should be required for rape? What
sorts of mistakes of fact should exculpate? Only reasonable mistakes?
(This will vary with the crime.) If only a reasonable mistake should
exculpate, what sort of standard of reasonableness is appropriate?
We'll examine mens reas issues both in the abstract and through an
examination of two crimes, rape and homicide. This will also lead us
into related questions that arise in connection with one or the other
crime. What constitutes consent? Does the fact that the defendant,
accused of murder, killed in the "heat of passion" warrant the lesser
conviction of voluntary manslaughter? What background assumptions
about emotion and self-control are at work here? We'll also discuss
self-defense (including the use of self-defense justifications by
battered women who have killed their batterers). A recurring question
will be the tenability of the "reasonable person" standard.
Note: There will be an option of earning a fourth credit by taking
part in the service-learning program.
Readings will include cases (and discussions of the cases), and
articles or excerpts from books by J.S. Mill, Jeremy Bentham,
Aristotle, Jean Hampton, Martha Nussbaum, and Heidi Malm, among