Philosophy seminar: Max De Gaynesford

Title: Justifications, Excuses and Justifexcuses

This seminar will take place in room G.36 Baines Wing.

Max De Gaynesford (Reading)

Abstract: If the defence for an action or omission counts as a justification, so it is assumed, it cannot also be an excuse (Hobbes; Austin, 1979; Hart, 1968; Fletcher, 2000; Ormerod, 2011; Smith, 1989; Horder 2004; Gardner 2007; Tadros, 2007; McMahan, 2009; Simester 2012). The converse is also assumed; and, indeed, it would follow. This Exclusion Thesis (ET) is regularly and significantly in play, in the narrower law-oriented context and in the wider moral setting, to help determine both the character of defences (e.g. Tadros for ‘reasonable mistakes’) and the content of definitions (e.g. Simester for ‘justification’). Yet ET is rarely argued for or defended; it seems to be regarded as too obviously true to require that. We may doubt the truth of ET, not least because there appear to be 'justifexcuses', i.e. occasions where (1) the very same defence is both a justification and an excuse; (2) it is a full justification and a full excuse; (3) it is a defence for the very same thing e.g. the same action, omission, piece of behaviour. Showing this is my goal in current work, but the aim of the present paper is more limited: to show that recent law-oriented theorists ought to question their endorsement of ET given core elements of their own positions.