The Quest for
the General Part
The criminal law is rooted in a set of distinct offenses, each with its problems of definition and its set of defenses that counteract the implications of incriminating events. Yet the quest of Western legal theory for the last hundred years or so has been the cultivation of a general part of the criminal law. The general part goes beyond the particular offenses and even particular patterns of liability, such as we have articulated in the first five chapters of this book. The general part has as its object the study of issues that cut across all offenses and merit analysis in isolation from their specific applications.
The quest for a general part has much to commend it. If self- defense is an issue in assault as well as in homicide cases, then the contours of self-defense should be worked out in a general fashion, rather than assayed once in the context of one crime and again in the context of another. If the problems of mistake of fact, mistake of law, duress, necessity, and mental abnormality arise repeatedly across the field of criminal law, then these issues require