Why criminal law: A question of content?

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I take it as obvious that attempts to justify the criminal law must be sensitive to matters of criminalization - to what conduct is proscribed or permitted. I discuss three additional matters that should be addressed in order to justify the criminal law. First, we must have a rough idea of what degree of deviation is tolerable between the set of criminal laws we ought to have and the set we really have. Second, we need information about how the criminal law at any given time and place is administered, since the law in action is bound to differ radically from the law on the books. Finally, we must have some basis for speculating what life would be like in the absence of a system of criminal justice - if the state ceased to impose punishments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-122
Number of pages24
JournalCriminal Law and Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Law


  • Abolition
  • Criminalization
  • Discretion
  • Legality
  • Punishment
  • Rights


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