Chapter

Profound Offense

Joel Feinberg

in The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law: Volume 2: Offense to Others

Published in print May 1988 | ISBN: 9780195052152
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785872 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195052153.003.0003
 Profound Offense

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Profound offenses are misleadingly characterized as simply “offensive nuisances” because of their perceived qualitative difference from mere nuisances, and because of their independence of actual perception. The nub of the offensiveness in the “profound” cases is not personal resentment over a disagreeable experience, but outrage at the offending conduct on grounds quite independent of its effect on oneself. Examples of profound offenses include voyeurism, Nazis and Klansmen, execrated but “harmless” deviant religious moral practices, desecration of venerated symbols, and abortion and mistreatment of corpses. The offense principle does not warrant legal interference in a person’s private conduct on the grounds that those who know that the conduct is (or may be) taking place need protection from the profound offensiveness of their own bare knowledge.

Keywords: profound offense; offensive nuisances; bare knowledge; offense principle

Chapter.  21893 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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