Minds on Trial

Jerome Neu

in On Loving Our Enemies

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199862986
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949762 | DOI:
Minds on Trial

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An individual is never now punished—in the United States at least—for thoughts alone. Using the word “thoughts” broadly—to cover a wide range of mental states, including belief, desire, and intention—the having of certain thoughts is not sufficient for legal punishment; it is, however, in general, and for good reason, necessary. Most offenses include, in addition to the doing of certain overt acts or evil deeds (actus reus), a condition of mens rea—variously translated as criminal intention, a guilty mind, evil intent, or a criminal mind. The question now becomes how does one establish the requisite psychological conditions—that is, mens rea (a guilty mind)? Given that an action was done, how does one establish whether it was done with or without the requisite intention or other psychological condition? This chapter provides a sense of the complexity of the issues and of their importance.

Keywords: thoughts; U.S. criminal justice system; law; beliefs; mens rea; psychological condition

Chapter.  15885 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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