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    Adorno, freedom and criminal law: the ‘Determinist Challenge’ revitalised

    Reeves, Craig (2016) Adorno, freedom and criminal law: the ‘Determinist Challenge’ revitalised. Law and Critique 27 (3), pp. 323-348. ISSN 0957-8536.

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    This article argues—against the present compatibilist orthodoxy in the philosophy of criminal law—for the contemporary relevance of a kind of critique of criminal law known as the ‘determinist challenge’, through a reconstruction of Theodor Adorno’s thought on freedom and determinism. The article begins by considering traditional forms of the determinist challenge, which expressed a widespread intuition that it is irrational or inappropriate for the criminal law to hold people responsible for actions that are causally determined by social and psychological forces in such a way that they cannot be said to have acted freely. Yet as traditionally presented it was possible for its opponents to interpret this challenge as an incompatibilist position within the traditional free will/determinism debate, and to present compatibilist arguments against it—in particular, that the determinist challenge is unmotivated and has implausible implications. It is argued that these compatibilist objections hold only on a certain interpretation of the determinist challenge, but that this interpretation is not the only one available. Adorno’s distinctive position on freedom and determinism is presented as an alternative version of the challenge, which cannot be assimilated to the terms of the traditional compatibilist/incompatibilist disputes. This novel, ‘metacritical’ version of the determinist challenge is essentially a social–historical, not metaphysical, thesis about the moral significance of the freedom-undermining effects of modern social forms. As such, it is argued, it is invulnerable to the usual compatibilist objections, and presents a serious challenge to our criminal legal institutions.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Business and Law > Birkbeck Law School
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2020 14:20
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:57


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