Coercion, Threats, and the Puzzle of Blackmail

Grant Lamond

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

Coercion, Threats, and the Puzzle of Blackmail

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This chapter demonstrates the value of setting problems of criminal law theory within the broader perspective of practical philosophy. Practical philosophy concerns the nature of human action — both individual and collective — and the reasoning which (either explicitly or implicitly) underlies action. A clearer appreciation of the nature of practical reasoning can help to explain some of the specific features of the criminal law. As an illustration of this general thesis, this chapter discusses some of the more important features of coercion, coercive threats, and consent in order to show how a better understanding of these can assist in explicating an intriguing puzzle within the criminal law presented by the offence of blackmail. It argues that blackmail is, in essence, a crime which rests upon the moral wrong of depriving another of his property or interfering with his personal autonomy, without his valid consent. It is the use of coercive threats which invalidates the victim's consent to these deprivations and interferences. This chapter suggests that the crime of blackmail represents a faithful application of the harm principle.

Keywords: criminal law; coercion; threats; blackmail; practical philosophy; consent; moral wrong; harm principle

Chapter.  12366 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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