Volume 45, Issue 3, 2015
Intention, Action, Responsibility
The paper investigates the way in which criminal law of most countries allocates to the idea of intention, as one of the principal determinants of liability to punishment. All civilized penal systems make liability to punishment for at any rate serious crime dependent not merely on the fact that the person to be punished has done the outward act of a crime, but on his having done it in a certain state of frame of mind. These mental or intellectual elements are many and various andare collected together in the legal terminology under the description of a guilty mind. But the most prominent, of these mental elements, and in many ways the most important, is a man's intention. The law's concern with intention generates a number of problems, some of which are discussed in this paper. It is argued that even before one reaches these problems there is a more fundamental question to be addressed: what is a man's intention? This is a question which, quite apart from the law, philosophers have found both intriguing and difficult to answer. The author discusses howit can add complexity to what is considered intentional in criminal law.