•  2200
    Prof. Cohen and I answer six questions: (1) Why do we lock people up? (2) How can involuntary civil commitment be reconciled with people's constitutional right to liberty? (3) Why don't we treat homicide as a public health threat? (4) What is the difference between legal and medical approaches to mental illness? (5) Why is mental illness required for involuntary commitment? (6) Where are we in our efforts to understand the causes of mental illness?
  •  736
    In this Article, I will argue that a person may be deserving of criminal punishment even in certain situations where she is not necessarily morally responsible for her criminal act. What these situations share in common are two things: the psychological factors that motivate the individual’s behavior are environmentally determined and her crime is serious, making her less eligible for sympathy and therefore less likely to be acquitted. -/- To get to this conclusion, I will proceed in four steps.…Read more
  •  554
    I argue for two propositions. First, contrary to the common wisdom, we may justly punish individuals who are not morally responsible for their crimes. Psychopaths – individuals who lack the capacity to feel sympathy – help to prove this point. Scholars are increasingly arguing that psychopaths are not morally responsible for their behavior because they suffer from a neurological disorder that makes it impossible for them to understand, and therefore be motivated by, moral reasons. These same sch…Read more
  •  507
    Consider the reaction of Trayvon Martin’s family to the jury verdict. They were devastated that George Zimmerman, the defendant, was found not guilty of manslaughter or murder. Whatever the merits of this outcome, what does the Martin family’s emotional reaction mean? What does it say about criminal punishment – especially the reasons why we punish? Why did the Martin family want to see George Zimmerman go to jail? And why were – and are – they so upset that he didn’t? -/- This Article will argu…Read more
  •  448
    For over a century now, American scholars (among others) have been debating the merits of “bad Samaritan” laws — laws punishing people for failing to attempt easy and safe rescues. Unfortunately, the opponents of bad Samaritan laws have mostly prevailed. In the United States, the “no-duty-to-rescue” rule dominates. Only four states have passed bad Samaritan laws, and these laws impose only the most minimal punishment — either sub-$500 fines or short-term imprisonment. -/- This Article argues th…Read more
  •  445
    Disclosure of true but reputation-damaging information is generally legal. But threats to disclose true but reputation-damaging information unless payment is made are generally criminal. Many scholars think that this situation is paradoxical because it seems to involve illegality mysteriously arising out of legality, a criminal act mysteriously arising out of an independently legal threat to disclose conjoined with an independently legal demand for money. -/- But this formulation is not quite r…Read more
  •  404
    On the Rationalist Solution to Gregory Kavka's Toxin Puzzle
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (2): 267-289. 2009.
    Gregory Kavka's 'Toxin Puzzle' suggests that I cannot intend to perform a counter-preferential action A even if I have a strong self-interested reason to form this intention. The 'Rationalist Solution,' however, suggests that I can form this intention. For even though it is counter-preferential, A-ing is actually rational given that the intention behind it is rational. Two arguments are offered for this proposition that the rationality of the intention to A transfers to A-ing itself: the 'Self-P…Read more
  •  388
    Peter Baumann uses the Monty Hall game to demonstrate that probabilities cannot be meaningfully applied to individual games. Baumann draws from this first conclusion a second: in a single game, it is not necessarily rational to switch from the door that I have initially chosen to the door that Monty Hall did not open. After challenging Baumann's particular arguments for these conclusions, I argue that there is a deeper problem with his position: it rests on the false assumption that what justifi…Read more
  •  370
    My article concerns constitutional interpretation and substantive due process, issues that played a central role in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), one of the two same-sex marriage cases. (The other same-sex marriage case was United States v. Windsor (2013).) -/- The late Justice Scalia consistently maintained that the Court “invented” substantive due process and continues to apply this legal “fiction” not because the Constitution supports it but simply because the justices like it. Two theories u…Read more
  •  324
    A surprisingly large number of scholars believe that (a) we are blameworthy, and therefore punishable, only for what we have control over; (b) we have control only over our actions and intentions, not the consequences of our actions; and therefore (c) if two agents perform the very same action (e.g., attempting to kill) with the very same intentions, then they are equally blameworthy and deserving of equal punishment – even if only one of them succeeds in killing. This paper argues against these…Read more
  •  310
    It is generally thought that ought implies can. If this maxim is correct, then my inability to do otherwise entails that I cannot be blamed for failing to do otherwise. In this article, however, I use Harry Frankfurt’s famous argument against the "Principle of Alternative Possibilities" (PAP) to show that the maxim is actually false, that I can be blamed for failing to do otherwise even in situations where I could not have done otherwise. In these situations, I do not act otherwise not because I…Read more
  •  294
    The euthanasia literature typically discusses the difference between “active” and “passive” means of ending a patient’s life. Physician-assisted suicide differs from both active and passive forms of euthanasia insofar as the physician does not administer the means of suicide to the patient. Instead, she merely prescribes and dispenses them to the patient and lets the patient “do the rest” – if and when the patient chooses. One supposed advantage of this process is that it maximizes the patient’s…Read more
  •  231
    Hume, the New Hume, and Causal Connections
    Hume Studies 26 (1): 41-75. 2000.
    In this article, I weigh in on the debate between "Humeans" and "New Humeans" concerning David Hume's stance on the existence of causal connections in "the objects." According to New Humeans, Hume believes in causal connections; according to Humeans, he does not. My argument against New Humeans is that it is too difficult to reconcile Hume's repeated claims that causal connections are inconceivable with any belief that they these inconceivable somethings still exist. Specifically, Hume either a…Read more
  •  228
    The main problem with usc libertarianism
    Philosophical Studies 105 (2): 107-127. 2001.
    Libertarians like Robert Kane believe that indeterminism is necessary for free will. They think this in part because they hold both that my being the ultimate cause of at least part of myself is necessary for free will and that indeterminism is necessary for this "ultimate self-causation". But seductive and intuitive as this "USC Libertarianism" may sound, it is untenable. In the end, no metaphysically coherent conception of ultimate self-causation is available. So the basic intuition motivating…Read more
  •  217
    Blocking Blockage
    Philosophia 44 (2): 565-583. 2016.
    The Blockage Argument is designed to improve upon Harry Frankfurt’s famous argument against the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by removing the counterfactual intervener altogether. If the argument worked, then it would prove in a way that Frankfurt’s argument does not that moral responsibility does not require any alternative possibilities whatsoever, not even the weakest “flicker of freedom”. -/- Some philosophers have rejected the Blockage Argument solely on the basis of their intuiti…Read more
  •  175
    Suppose you are at the gym trying to see some naked beauties by peeping through a hole in the wall. A policeman happens by, he asks you what you are doing, and you honestly tell him. He then arrests you for voyeurism. Are you guilty? We don’t know yet because there is one more fact to be considered: while you honestly thought that a locker room was on the other side of the wall, it was actually a squash court. Are you guilty now? -/- Probably. You might argue that your scopophiliac ambition was…Read more
  •  167
    The Solution to the Surprise Exam Paradox
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (2): 131-158. 2009.
    The Surprise Exam Paradox continues to perplex and torment despite the many solutions that have been offered. This paper proposes to end the intrigue once and for all by refuting one of the central pillars of the Surprise Exam Paradox, the 'No Friday Argument,' which concludes that an exam given on the last day of the testing period cannot be a surprise. This refutation consists of three arguments, all of which are borrowed from the literature: the 'Unprojectible Announcement Argument,' the 'Wri…Read more
  •  120
    Criminal Responsibility
    In Robert D. Morgan (ed.), SAGE Encyclopedia of Criminal Psychology, Sage Publishing. pp. 269-272. 2019.
    This invited entry offers a brief overview of criminal responsibility. The first part starts with a question: is Clyde criminally responsible for killing his girlfriend Bonnie? The answer: it depends. Particular circumstances determine whether Clyde is guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter, not guilty because he has a good excuse, or not guilty because he has a good justification. The second part addresses the complicated relationship between criminal responsibility and moral responsibility…Read more
  •  113
    Trying to Make Sense of Criminal Attempts (review)
    Jurisprudence 7 (3): 656-664. 2016.
    Issues include attempts generally; the problem of outcome luck; the impossibility defense; physical movement and intent; and reckless attempts, attempted rape, and attempted theft. In the final section, I offer a hypothetical that challenges Prof. Donnelly-Lazarov's theory.
  •  79
    This Article falls into three general parts. The first part starts with an important question: is the insanity defense constitutionally required? The United States Supreme Court will finally try to answer this question next term in the case of Kahler v. Kansas. I say “finally” because the Court refused to answer this question in 2012 when it denied certiorari to an appeal brought by John Joseph Delling, a severely mentally ill defendant who was sentenced to life in prison three years earlier for…Read more
  •  1
    Free Will Hunting
    Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick. 1999.
    Philosophers misleadingly speak of "the problem of free will". This is misleading because there is not just one but several different problems of free will. "The problem" to which philosophers usually refer is the question: is free will even possible? I address this question in Chapters 2 and 3. In Chapter 2, I argue that if free will entails ultimate self-causation, then free will is indeed impossible. But I then argue in Chapter 3 that free will does not entail ultimate self-causation. It does…Read more