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University of Richmond

Ethics and Political Philosophy

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Blame And The Criminal Law, David Lefkowitz Jan 2015

Blame And The Criminal Law, David Lefkowitz

Philosophy Faculty Publications

Many retributivists appear to presume that the concept of blame that figures in their accounts of just punishment is the same one people employ in their interpersonal moral relationships. David Shoemaker contends that this presumption is mistaken. Moral blameworthiness, he maintains, tracks only the meaning of a person's action––his reasons for acting as he did––while criminal blameworthiness, which he equates with liability to punishment, tracks only the impermissibility of an agent's action. I contest the second of these two claims, and in doing so defend the retributivists’ presumption. First, I argue that the purpose of a criminal trial can be …