Blameworthiness and Time

37 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2010 Last revised: 6 Dec 2012

See all articles by Alex F. Sarch

Alex F. Sarch

University of Surrey School of Law

Jules L. Coleman

New York University (NYU); New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

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.

Suggested Citation

Sarch, Alex F. and Coleman, Jules L., Blameworthiness and Time (July 22, 2010). Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 214, Available at SSRN:

Alex F. Sarch

University of Surrey School of Law ( email )

United Kingdom


Jules L. Coleman (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, Room 1240
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
United States

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics