Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

The Constitution of Criminal Law. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013.


Can the state, as opposed co its individual human members in their personal capacity, intelligibly seek to avoid blame for unjustified wrongdoing by invoking duress, provocation, a reasonable mistake in justification, or other types of excuses? Insofar as it can, should such claims ever be given moral and legal recognition? It is certainly not uncommon to encounter offhand statements to the effect that at least some state excuses are both conceivable and legitimate.1 However, the issue has yet to receive the sustained philosophical attention it deserves. Few theorists speak to it specifically, and those who do typically discard rather rashly the possibility of genuine state excuses. This theoretical neglect is symptomatic of a more general lack of analytical attention to the conditions that must obtain for the state to be legitimately held responsible for wrongdoing in law and morality. In this chapter, my aim is to start filling this gap by mapping out the topic of state excuses in a way that will, hopefully, spur a more systematic discussion of its various facets, including its relationship with the wider question of when the state may legitimately be singled out to bear adverse normative consequences for wrongdoing. I say that my aim is limited to 'mapping out' the topic because an important first step in understanding state excuses is to identify properly the many complex and controversial theoretical puzzles they raise.


© Oxford University Press
By permission of Oxford University Press.

Request a copy that is accessible using assistive technology (link opens in a new window)

Catalogue Record

Click here to access the catalogue record for this item.