Professor Fletcher challenges the traditional account of the development of tort doctrine as a shift from an unmoral standard of strict liability for directly causing harm to a moral standard based on fault. He then sets out two paradigms of liability to serve as constructs for understanding competing ideological viewpoints about the proper role of tort sanctions. He asserts that the paradigm of reciprocity, which looks only to the degree of risk imposed by the parties to a lawsuit on each (...) other, and to the existence of possible excusing conditions, provides greater protection of individual interests than the paradigm of reasonableness, which assigns liability instrumentally on the basis of a utilitarian calculus. Finally, Professor Fletcher examines stylistic differences between the two paradigms which may explain the modern preference for the paradigm of reasonableness. (shrink)
The Grammar of Criminal Law is a 3-volume work that addresses the field of international and comparative criminal law, with its primary focus on the issues of international concern, ranging from genocide, to domestic efforts to combat terrorism, to torture, and to other international crimes. The first volume is devoted to foundational issues. The Grammar of Criminal Law is unique in its systematic emphasis on the relationship between language and legal theory; there is no comparable comparative study of legal language. (...) Written in the spirit of Fletcher's classic Rethinking Criminal Law, this work is essential reading in the field of international and comparative law. (shrink)
America is at war with terrorism. Terrorists must be brought to justice.We hear these phrases together so often that we rarely pause to reflect on the dramatic differences between the demands of war and the demands of justice, differences so deep that the pursuit of one often comes at the expense of the other. In this book, one of the country's most important legal thinkers brings much-needed clarity to the still unfolding debates about how to pursue war and justice in (...) the age of terrorism. George Fletcher also draws on his rare ability to combine insights from history, philosophy, literature, and law to place these debates in a rich cultural context. He seeks to explain why Americans--for so many years cynical about war--have recently found war so appealing. He finds the answer in a revival of Romanticism, a growing desire in the post-Vietnam era to identify with grand causes and to put nations at the center of ideas about glory and guilt.Fletcher opens with unsettling questions about the nature of terrorism, war, and justice, showing how dangerously slippery the concepts can be. He argues that those sympathetic to war are heirs to the ideals of Byron, Fichte, and other Romantics in their belief that nations--not just individuals--must uphold honor and be held accountable for crimes. Fletcher writes that ideas about collective glory and guilt are far more plausible and widespread than liberal individualists typically recognize. But as he traces the implications of the Romantic mindset for debates about war crimes, treason, military tribunals, and genocide, he also shows that losing oneself in a grand cause can all too easily lead to moral catastrophe.A work of extraordinary intellectual power and relevance, the book will change how we think not only about world events, but about the conflicting individualist and collective impulses that tear at all of us. (shrink)
Jewish law takes an approach to self-defense that differs dramatically from the conventional assumptions of Western secular legal systems. The central theme of Talmudic jurisprudence is that self-defense rests on a duty not to stand idly by while one's neighbor suffers. “Do not stand on the blood of one's neighbor,” as the point is cryptically put in Leviticus 19:16. This way of thinking about self-defense departs in two significant ways from common Western assumptions. First, it stresses that the roots of (...) self-defense are a duty rather than a right to act; second, it treats the case of third-party defense as logically prior to the first-party case of self -defense. (shrink)
In this one-of-a-kind text, George P. Fletcher, a renowned legal theorist, offers a provocative yet accessible overview of the basics of legal thought. The first section of the book is designed to introduce the reader to fundamental concepts such as the rule of law and deciding cases under the law. It continues with an analysis of the values of justice, desert, consent, and equality, as they figure into our judgment of legal cultures in terms of soundness and legitimacy. The final (...) chapters address the problems of morality and consistency in the law. In each case the author not only introduces the basic ideas but considers important arguments in the contemporary literature and raises original claims of his own. Ideally suited for courses in the philosophy of law, legal issues, and jurisprudence, Basic Concepts of Legal Thought fills a void in the literature, as there is no other volume that both eases law students into the mysteries of legal philosophy and provides an introduction to the legal mind for non-lawyers. (shrink)
In the theory of rights we repeatedly encounter the problem of reconciling someone’s having a right, with his properly suffering damage to the interest protected by the right. In the case of right to life, we have to assess numerous cases in which individuals are killed or allowed to die, and yet we wish nonetheless to affirm their right to life. These cases include killing an aggressor in self-defense, accidental homicide, terminating life-sustaining therapy, and capital punishment.
This is a reprint of a book first published by Little, Brown in 1978. George Fletcher is working on a new edition, which will be published by Oxford in three volumes, the first of which is scheduled to appear in January of 2001. Rethinking Criminal Law is still perhaps the most influential and often cited theoretical work on American criminal law. This reprint will keep this classic work available until the new edition can be published.
For people to live together in pluralistic communities, they must find someway to cope with the practices of others that they abhor. For that reason, tolerance has always seemed an appealing medium of accommodation. But tolerance also has its critics. One wing charges that the tolerant are too easygoing. They are insensitive to evil in their midst. At the same time, another wing attacks the tolerant for being too weak in their sentimentsof respect. “The Christian does not wish to be (...) tolerated,” as T. S. Eliot said; and by this he meant to claim, presumably, that the Christian desires respect and acceptance, and not merely the forbearance suggested by “tolerance.” To make the case for tolerance, we must engage in a three-front campaign: first, against intolerance; second, against the moral failing of indifference; and third, against the desirability of respecting and accepting everyone. The central claim in making this case will be that unlike these three competing sentiments, tolerance is a complex attitude toward the behavior and beliefs of others. Its complexity consists in both moral disapproval and the avoidance of interference. If there is a case to be made for tolerance, it must derive from this peculiar complexity. After surveying its alternatives, I will argue that the complex sentimentof tolerance is more readily praised than its alternatives. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: Loyalty and Partiality Loyalty: Unilateral and Reciprocal Contract and History Individualism and Communitarianism Loyalty in the Legal Culture Loyalty and Its Critics References.
Attitudes toward collective guilt in the Middle East require us to take a closer look at guilt in the Bible. It turns out the text of Genesis is conflicted. Some passages support a theory of guilt linked with the inevitability of cleansing and punishment; other passages appear to treat guilt as a psychological state that might be cured by a confession of sins. The tension is important today in trying to understand whether the collective guilt of nations should also entail (...) collective punishment. (shrink)
These days, American politicians are loath to cite biblical passages for fear of being charged with breaching the wall between church and state. There was a time when a presidential candidate could claim that a certain monetary policy would “crucify us on a cross of gold.” This kind of rhetoric is now taboo. America's national leaders even avoid quoting the religious phrases from the Declaration of Independence, particularly its references to the “Creator” or “Nature's God.” Although in the past some (...) of the greatest American political oratory—Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg or Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lincoln Memorial —relied unashamedly on biblical sources and imagery, it is no longer considered acceptable to argue publicly in the language of either the Hebrew or Christian Bibles. However religious American society might still be today, political rhetoric is noticeably nonreligious. (shrink)
The theoretical inquiry into the foundations of criminal law in the twentieth century, in both civil and common law traditions, is assayed by the consideration of seven main currents or trends. First, the structure of offenses is examined in light of the bipartite, tripartite, and quadripartite modes of analysis. Second, competing theories of culpability - normative and descriptive - are weighed in connection with their important ramifications for the presumption of proof and the allocation of the burden of persuasion on (...) defenses. Third, the struggle with alternatives to punishment for the control and commitment of dangerous but non-criminal persons is compared in civil and common law approaches. Fourth, the ascendancy of feminism, as the most successful interdisciplinary school of thought applied to criminal law since the early 1970s, and its contributions in the areas of rape, self-defense, provocation, and capital punishment are charted and weighed. Fifth, one of the most distinctive facets of criminal theory in the last century has been the emergence of the victims' rights movement; its success is compared in civil and common law jurisdictions. Sixth, while it is commonplace in the civil law tradition to embed issues of criminal law within the principles of constitutional law, common law jurisdictions vary; the increasing constitutionalization of criminal law in Canada is contrasted with its decrease in the U.S. Seventh, against the backdrop of a particularly intense period of codification of the criminal law in the last half of the twentieth century, the celebrated American Model Penal Code is criticized. Finally, four predictions for the direction of criminal theory in the next century are ventured. (shrink)