SMNR: Responsibility in Law & Morality

Class Unique: 29340
Concepts of responsibility and liability are basic to our understanding of law, whether civil, criminal or public. Responsibility is also a topic of central concern in ethics and moral philosophy. Philosophical investigations of 'moral' responsibility tend to focus on concepts of agency and will, i.e. on agent- relative conditions of the ascription of responsibility for conduct. The law, by contrast, is as concerned with the consequences of conduct as it is with the status and capacities of the agent. This difference of perspective is one reason why law and morality may sometimes seem to be in conflict on matters of responsibility. A common approach to such conflict is to treat morality as providing a critical standard against which 'conventional' legal practices are to be judged. The main aim of this course will be to explore the relationship between legal and moral responsibility, and between legal and moral reasoning about responsibility and liability. In contrast to the standard philosophical approach, the analysis will take law as its starting point. The underlying argument will be that law and morality are in a symbiotic relationship, and that it is only by 'taking law seriously' that we can properly understand a society's responsibility practices. Topics covered will include the institutions of law and morality, the nature of legal and moral reasoning, the nature and functions of responsibility, responsibility and culpability, determinism and moral luck, responsibility and personality, grounds and bounds of responsibility, the practical implementation of responsibility principles, and responsibility in public law. Central to the analysis will be three 'paradigms of legal responsibility: a civil law paradigm, a criminal law paradigm and a public law paradigm. The course will raise and discuss fundamental questions about the nature of law and of morality, about the relevance of outcomes to responsibility, and about the 'legal enforcement of morality'.

Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Monday, Wednesday 3:30 - 5:20 pm JON 5.220
Evaluation Method Date Time Alpha Range Room

Additional Information

Course Type


Cane, Peter F Cane, Peter F