Blameworthiness and Time
37 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2010 Last revised: 6 Dec 2012
Date Written: July 22, 2010
Reactive emotion accounts hold that blameworthiness should be analyzed in terms of the familiar reactive emotions. However, despite the attractions of such views, we are not persuaded that blameworthiness is ultimately a matter of correctly felt reactive emotion. In this paper, we draw attention to a range of little-discussed considerations involving the moral signiﬁcance of the passage of time that drive a wedge between blameworthiness and the reactive emotions: the appropriateness of the reactive emotions is sensitive to the passage of time in ways that attributions of blameworthiness are not. There are a number of ways in which reactive emotion accounts might at-tempt to accommodate the moral signiﬁcance of time, however. We consider the most important of these but ultimately ﬁnd them wanting. Accordingly, we conclude that the prospects for the reactive emotion accounts are bleak. Our argument, if successful, has a range of implications for legal theory, most importantly in providing a novel moral basis for statutes of limitations and in shedding light on new avenues in the theory of criminal law generally.
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