Bad Acts and Guilty Minds

Reply Wed 18 Mar, 2009 06:48 pm
Bad Acts and Guilty Minds
Conundrums of the Criminal Law
Leo Katz
ISBN 0226425924

Besides Kierkegaard, Bad Acts and Guilty Minds is one of the most thoroughly interesting and even enjoyable philosophy books. Well written, organized, and with many clear examples and cases that illuminate the conundrums of law. Katz divides the book into several aspects of law: mens rea, actus reus, principle of necessity, but for causation cases, sins of omissions and comissions, and some of the famous cases, both real and hypothetical, like Palsgraf, the Splunkers, and the Nazi War Crimes.


  • Quite enjoyable read for a dry subject
  • Well written. Plain and simple English, with law terms explained.
  • Katz simplifies the text surrounding the cases and uses the case example to highlight the difficult aspects of philosophy of law.
  • Effortlessly integrates major philosophers work, like Locke, Husserl, and Wittgenstein with law problems.
  • Not Literary Enough
  • Presupposes an intermediate knowledge in law cases, both mundane and intriguing
  • At times, Katz can be definitive and final in his judgments.
"To the extent that we can put our finger on it, the principle of necessity appears to say, 'In situations of necessity, criminal law may be broken'" (13)

"Few cases, even imaginary ones, are bizzare enough never to have happened before. Do these cases give us any guidance?" (17)

"Paul, eight years old, can recite the formula, E=mc2. Does Paul really believes E equals mc2?" (178)

"Causing someone an injury is not grounds for liability." (244)

"Some philosophers, like Ludwig Wittgenstein, would insist that questions such as whether Fatma-the-woman and Fatma-the-healer are the same person just don't have an answer." (112)

"It thus turns out that we are a great deal more altruistic than our conduct at times would indicate. It's just that a number of obstacles lie in the way of our showing it." (152)

Rating: A-.
This book, as well as "Law and Morality: Readings in Legal Philosophy" by Dyzenhaus and Ripstein, are two great introductions into philosophy of law. I would recommend these books if one is so inclined and interest to try to grasp this discipline, despite its dryness at times.
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