Provocation and Responsibility

By Jeremy Horder | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is about moral and legal responsibility for provoked retaliation. Its main foci are the historical and the philosophical underpinnings of the legal doctrine of provocation. In English law, that doctrine has the effect (in limited circumstances) of reducing criminal liability for a killing to manslaughter from what would otherwise be murder. The book seeks to weave historical insights and philosophical analysis into what one might call the story of the doctrine of provocation: how provocation emerged as a partial defence to murder (over 400 years ago), how the legal understanding of the nature of action in anger appeared radically to change during the doctrine's long and colourful history, and how the doctrine's mitigating effect has been explained and justified.

As well as charting the rise of the doctrine, however, the book also presages its fall. The existence of the doctrine represents a tragic misunderstanding and distortion of the true ethical connection between anger and mitigating virtue. As such, its continued existence does little more than provide one more example of the law's failure to grapple with the problem of unremitting male anger and violence against women in the 'domestic' sphere.

Even in a monograph on a single topic in the criminal law it is rarely possible to do full justice to that topic. I am only too well aware of having left much unsaid or unexamined that could have been or needed to be said or examined. In particular, I have sacrificed full legal comprehensiveness, comparative analysis, and the insights of psychology to the greater good of a coherent and compelling philosophical and legal narrative. I hope I may be forgiven.

J. C. N. H.

October 1991

-vii-

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Provocation and Responsibility
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Introduction vi
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Table of Statutes xiii
  • Table of Cases xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- The Early Centuries Of Development 5
  • 2- The Seventeenth Century 23
  • 3- Honour, Anger, and Virtue 43
  • 4- Anger as Outrage 59
  • 5- The Rise of Loss Of Self-Control 72
  • 6- Justifying Mitigation Morally 111
  • 8- Excusing Action in Anger 156
  • 9- Anger, Mitigation, and Gender 186
  • References 199
  • Index 205
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