Causation and Responsibility: An Essay in Law, Morals, and Metaphysics

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This book is about the role causation plays in the attribution of both moral responsibility and legal liability (in the law of crimes, torts, and to a lesser extent, contracts). The book strips away many of the usages of the word 'causation' in law and legal theory, on the grounds that such usages have little to do with causation itself. What remains is the law's use of 'causation' to name a natural relation that is at the heart of both ordinary and scientific explanations of the world. Some normative defense is offered as to why causation in this sense is a proper basis for assessing degrees of both culpability and permissibility in morality and also in law. A more extended metaphysical defense is also offered, as to the nature of the causal relation and as to the nature of the things related by the causal relation. This normative and metaphysical analysis is used as the springboard from which to critique much of what the law currently says about causation, including the law's counterfactual test for cause in fact, its notions of intervening cause, foreseeability, harm within the risk, accomplice liability, the causal status of omissions and of non-omissive allowings, and more besides. The result is a rethinking of causation's nature and role in our legal and moral practices of assigning blame and responsibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages640
ISBN (Electronic)9780191719653
ISBN (Print)9780199256860
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • Accomplices
  • Counterfactuals
  • Criminal law
  • Culpability
  • Legal theory
  • Permissibility
  • Proximate causation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Causation and Responsibility: An Essay in Law, Morals, and Metaphysics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this