WDW365 Reading Summaries.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Woodsworth College Courses
William Watson

ESSAY TOPIC INSANITYShould the determination of the criminal responsibility of defendants thought to be mentally disordered be based entirely on a psychological view of the mindPsychological Model habits by inner workings of the mind run by subconscious mechanisms explanation through conditioning instead of reason cannot blame reason for action so not responsible deterministicREADING 1 Construction of Responsibility in the Criminal Law all human behaviour can be understood from two perspectives 1 Objective in nature holds that conduct is always the product of some matrix of causal factors that necessarily determines choice 2 Participant Perspective great bulk of human activity as having been produced through the agency of an individuals free willthis is generally given voice in the criminal law both perspectives can plausibly explain alcoholic or addictive behaviour a key element in the construction of individual responsibility and a key feature of excuse theory generally is the criminal laws stylized treatment of the human capacity for practical reasoningthe process of practical reasoning through which decision is reached is fully determined by factors beyond the autonomous control of the actor conduct in this respect can be simultaneously described as determined and free if the actor can be said to have engaged in a process of practical reasoning responsibility ordinarily will be assigned if the actor was unable in a meaningful fashion to engage in decision making and reasoning it is likely that responsibility will not be assigned occasional requests for recognition of a lossofcontrol excuse offers an unusual approach to study the criminal laws ideological functioning jurisprudence that holds that conduct is blameworthy only when it is the product of the actors free willdebate over compatibility or incompatibility of free will and universal causation unmask an essential coexistence of intentionalism and determinismin the criminal law Competing Models of Addiction correspond to competing theories of responsibility are presented to illustrate the fundamental incompatibility of medical and legal notions of human behaviour the legal system manages the intentionalismdeterminism conflict by submerging the causal roots of conduct in a thoroughgoing intentionalist account medical profession is governed instead by the determinist perspective those concerned about preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system would emphasize the public health aspects of the addiction problem and so setting it to be dominated by determinist ideology proposal to seek a recharacterization of drug and alcohol addiction as a medical problem represents a shift from questions of liability to questions of criminalization tradition among criminal law theorists to separate out the process of defining the scope of the criminal law from the process of defining the essential characteristics of criminal responsibility instead focus on problems with respect to enforcement discrimination misallocation of resources and system legitimacyFOCUS the current policy of relying upon criminal law enforcement as the primary means for dealing with substance abuse has been largely ineffective in the short run a revised policy of partial decriminalization will serve the interests of those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction in the long run renewed attention to the matter of criminalization may be necessary to preserve the institutionIntentionalism and Determinism freedom of action may exist without freedom of choice and freedom of choice may exist without freedom of action freedom that is morally significant is the freedom to act according to ones own desires the distinction between the prescriptive form of determinism compulsion and descriptive form causation is important because it makes it possible to hold human actors responsible for their conduct without regard to whether their choices were caused by factors beyond their control for purposes of figuring moral responsibility the relevant question is whether an actor is the author of his or her own conduct such that his or her choices fairly can be attributed to his or her ongoing character Harry Frankfurt argueshuman beings like most other animals have desires and motives and are able to make choices that frequently satisfy these first order desires moral responsibility does not require freedom of the will rather all that is required is the ability to act freely or the ability to act according to ones secondorder volition problem of assigning moral responsibility under Watsons analysis is what an agent desires may be different from that which he or she values and that which he or she values most may be other than what he or she ultimately is moved to seek as the divergence between an actors wants and values grows responsibility lessens and as the two systems converge responsibility increases the uniquely personal characteristic of the human self within the decisional process is identified as that mass of attitudes and values that provides reasons for ones actions the difficulty facing the causal theorist is that traditional principles of responsibility seem incompatible with the fairly plausible notion of universal causation behaviour that is the product of an unbroken chain of prior causes is still attributable to the person of the human actor so long as the filter of an autonomous mental process is in place human autonomy exists because it is a social necessity and because people share the subjective experience of its operation not because it can be shown to exist as some sort of presocial reality people regularly see themselves and others from two competing vantage points the participant and the objective employing the participant perspective people unproblematically assign praise and blame to their own acts and the conduct of others because they understand human agents as autonomous decision makers ordinarily the criminal law adopts Strawsons participant perspective when evaluating the responsibility of a given defendant Moore argues that causal theories of excuse should be rejected because they fail to account accurately for excuse doctrine as it exists within the criminal law Moores thesis is that a causal theory of excuse cannot be reconciled as a matter of logic with the reality of determinism determinist premise that all human conduct is the product of causal forces beyond the actors control the moral version of the causal theory of excuse requires that blame be withheld when conduct is caused by factors outside of the scope of an actors freewill Moore states a theory of punishment under which moral culpability is a necessary condition for legal liability no conduct can ever be legally punishable concluding these three steps he claims one must look beyond simple causal accounts in order to identify those features that make human actors responsible moral agents he asserts that it is the opportunity and ability to engage in practical reasoning that renders one subject to blame and praise punishment and reward he argues that people regularly assign praise and blame to conduct known to have been caused by forces beyond the control of the actor the causal theory does not seem to be the best explanation for our strong exculpatory impulses Moores analysis seems to be that the choice is absolute if the actor was possessed of the opportunity and capacity for practical reasoning then he or she was a responsible agent if the actor was denied the opportunity to reason or was incapable of so doing then responsibility may not be assigned Moore suggests that such sympathy is suspect because it is asymmetrical people rarely feel sympathy for offenders whose conduct was caused by a privileged upbringing in some essential respect we understand that these actors could not have done otherwise given the extreme social deprivation which has shaped their decisionmaking process at the same time we hold them responsible for their actions because we believe that they have exercised choice and have directed their conduct according to formed preferences statements propositions or systems of ideas have not become invested with meaning until after they are placed within a social context
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