The Harmless Thoughts of Meir Dan-Cohen
40 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2005
Date Written: December 10, 2004
The publication of Meir Dan-Cohen's collected essays provides a welcome opportunity to reflect on a career of innovative and influential scholarship in criminal law and legal philosophy. By addressing his works collectively I hope to unearth creative tensions between arguments framed at different times and in response to different concerns, tensions not visible when the arguments are taken one at a time. Part I of this Review discusses the essays Harmful Thoughts and Defending Dignity; Part II centers on Decision Rules and Conduct Rules: On Acoustic Separation in Criminal Law and Responsibility and the Boundaries of the Self; Part III turns to In Defense of Defiance and Conceptions of Choice and Conceptions of Autonomy. Each pair of essays reveals a tension within Dan-Cohen's ideas surrounding the purposes and limits of the criminal law and the meaning and value of human autonomy. I will attempt through an exploration of his ideas to sketch some of my own, ideas which preserve and synthesize his many insights while avoiding many of their conflicting implications. I only hope my discussion will be helpful and not merely harmless.
Keywords: Criminal law, legal theory, philosophy, liberal, harm, harm principle, dignity, welfare, expressive, reasons, internalism, externalism, authority
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