Beccaria on Discounting Intentions in Adjudicating Punishments for Crimes

Dale Jacquette


This essay considers Cesare Beccaria's arguments in Chapter 7 of Dei delitti e delle pene for discounting an agent's intentions in assigning punishments for crimes. Beccaria offers four different arguments in this compact section of the book, including the impenetrable subjectivity of another subject's intentionality and the risk of committing blasphemy by punishing intentions to act as sins and effectively usurping God's authority. These objections are answered and the role of intentions in determining criminal guilt and appropriate punishments is investigated in light of Beccaria's objections.


Beccaria, Cesare; criminal liability; intentions; proto-utilitarianism;

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