Why Distinguish Intention from Foresight?

A. P. Simester

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

Why Distinguish Intention from Foresight?

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Philosophers conventionally distinguish between intentional actions and actions which are merely foreseen. The criminal law endorses that distinction, and applies a condition of unreasonableness before any foreseen action is declared reckless. This chapter challenges the standard view that intention has moral primacy and suggests that the difference between intentional and advertent wrongdoing is not to be measured in degrees of culpability, but is instead worked out in terms of what actions may legitimately be invoked to justify wrongdoing. The central moral distinction between intended actions and those merely foreseen is that the foreseen do not lend any favourable weight to the justification of the intended. Before addressing the question of intrinsic moral distinctions, this chapter considers the possibility that there might also be instrumental reasons for the law to distinguish between intention and advertence. It examines A. Kenny's views on actus reus, intention, foresight, and the probability of harm, and John M. Finnis's arguments on incommensurability and justification as well as the moral distinctions between ends, means, and side-effects.

Keywords: criminal law; intention; foresight; advertence; actus reus; harm; incommensurability; justification; side-effects; John M. Finnis

Chapter.  16575 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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