Actions, reasoning, and criminal liability: Philosophical and psychological foundations of criminal responsibility.
AuthorSchopp, Robert Francis.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractContemporary American Criminal Law, as represented by the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code, defines the structure of criminal offenses in a manner that establishes certain psychological processes of the defendant as necessary conditions for criminal liability. In order to convict a defendant, the state must prove all offense elements including the voluntary act and culpability requirements. These provisions involve the actor's psychological processes, but neither the exact nature of these requirements nor the relationship between them is clearly understood. Certain general defenses, such as automatism and insanity, also address the defendant's psychological processes. It has been notoriously difficult, however, to develop a satisfactory formulation of either of these defenses or of the relationship between them and the system of offense elements. This dissertation presents a conceptual framework that grounds the Model Penal Code's structure of offense elements in philosophical action theory. On this interpretation, the offense requirements that involve the defendant's psychological processes can be understood as part of an integrated attempt to establish the criminal law as a behavior guiding institution that is uniquely appropriate to those who have the capacity to direct their conduct through a process of practical reasoning. The key offense requirements are designed to limit criminal liability to those behaviors that are appropriately attributed to the offender as a practical reasoner. Certain general defenses, including insanity, exculpate defendants when their behavior is not attributable to them as practical reasoners as a result of certain types of impairment that are not addressed by the offense elements. This conceptual framework provides a consistent interpretation of the relevant offense elements and defenses as part of an integrated system that limits criminal liability to those acts that are appropriately attributable to the defendant in his capacity as a practical reasoner. In addition, this dissertation contends that this system reflects a defensible conception of personal responsibility.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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