Subjectivism, Objectivism and Criminal Attempts

R. A. Duff

in Harm and Culpability

Published in print August 1996 | ISBN: 9780198260578
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682124 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Subjectivism, Objectivism and Criminal Attempts

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It is sometimes unhelpful to portray controversies about the proper principles of criminal liability as controversies between ‘subjectivism’ and ‘objectivism’. In some contexts, there seems to be a clear distinction between ‘subjectivist’ and ‘objectivist’ principles of criminal liability, and controversies which embody that distinction. One such context is the law of attempts. Subjectivism distinguishes the subjective realm of choice, intention, and belief from the objective realm of actual facts or effects: what the agent intended and tried to do, or believed to be so, from what actually happened, or was actually so. Criminal liability should depend on culpability, and culpability requires control. If criminal conviction and punishment are to express appropriate blame or censure, then they too must depend in part on the actual or objective character of the criminal's actions.

Keywords: criminal liability; subjectivism; objectivism; law of attempts; choice; intention; belief; culpability; criminal conviction; punishment

Chapter.  13649 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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