Phil Bates, Lecturer in Law, Open University Law School
Killing Law and Murdering Philosophy
1 May 2013
Bizarre killings, either imagined or historical, feature in Philosophy seminars and in Law tutorials. Philosophers may stress that they are interested in the ethical or conceptual aspects, while lawyers will say that ‘this is a court of law, not of morals’. Legal discussion necessarily takes place within a framework of authority, and national jurisdiction, which has little or no relevance to philosophical debate. Nevertheless, students of both disciplines (and members of the public and juries) may struggle to distinguish the legal and ethical elements, particularly if there is an appeal to intuition or ‘common sense’. In addition, each discipline may sometimes present a simplistic version of the other perspective, for its own purposes. In this paper, Phil will ask what is at stake when different disciplines discuss responsibility for killing, and what we can learn by considering these disciplinary perspectives together.