Diminished Capacity


in Action and Value in Criminal Law

Published in print December 1993 | ISBN: 9780198258063
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681783 | DOI:
Diminished Capacity

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Stress, intense emotion, mental disorder and defect, intoxication, trauma, and other causes of abnormal mental states can impair rationality and self-control, abilities which are thought crucial to ascriptions of moral responsibility. In addition to insanity, diminished capacity in its many incarnations is the major legal doctrine that responds to mental abnormality. After first briefly outlining preliminary assumptions about responsibility and criminal justice, this chapter defines diminished capacity's two variants: the mens rea and partial-responsibility variants. It then addresses in depth the justifications and implementation problems for each variant, with special attention to partial responsibility and the problematic issue of ‘internal coercion’ or ‘compulsion’. It concludes with a discussion of difficult special issues.

Keywords: moral responsibility; insanity; means rea; partial-responsibility; internal coercion; compulsion; criminal law

Chapter.  19531 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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