Intention, Agency and Criminal Liability (Philosophical introductions)

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A woman sets fire to a house intending to frighten its occupants. If the fire kills them, should she be convicted of murder? A man persists in sexual intercourse with a non-consenting woman in the wholly unreasonable belief that she consents to it. Should he be convicted of rape? These and other related cases, raise crucial questions about the principles of criminal liability and about the role played in the criminal law by the concepts of intention and recklessness. They also relate to central issues in the philosophy issues are bound up with the legal questions. It aims to introduce students of law to some of the philosophical dimensions of their subject, and to show how the problems which lawyers face in trying to understand and evaluate the basic principles of the criminal law can be clarified and resolved in philosophical inquiry. It also aims to show students of philosophy how issues in the philosophy of action can be clarified by attention to the problems in the criminal law. It presupposes no knowledge of philosophy, and introduces and explains the philosophical issues through an examination of particular problem cases. The topics which are dealt with include the meaning and legal significance of intention, dualism, recklessness, criminal attempts, responsibility and criminal agency and the proper definition of offences such as murder and rape.

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