Self-Mediated Risk in Criminal Law

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The paper addresses the question whether ‘self-mediated risk’ – risk whose coming-to-fruition depends on future volitional conduct by the actor himself – bears on the wrongfulness of an actor's present conduct. Moral philosophers have long been divided on this question. ‘Actualists’ take the view that an actor's present moral obligations do, in fact, depend on what he or she actually is likely to do in the future. In contrast, ‘possibilists’ take the view that an actor's present obligations depend only on what he or she will have the capacity to do in the future. This paper argues that actualism better captures the morality that underlies the criminal law. The paper also explores actualism's implications for criminal law. Among these is the implication that the locus of moral fault in criminal cases sometimes is temporally removed from the conduct that triggers the assignment of blame.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-565
Number of pages29
JournalLaw and Philosophy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Law


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