A Soft Defence of a Utilitarian Principle of Criminalization

  • Thomas Søbirk Petersen
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 134)


In this chapter, I argue that the utilitarian principle of criminalization (UPC) is sounder than its poor reputation suggests. The chapter begins by describing three possible answers to the research question: to what extent should the consequences of criminalization matter morally in a theory of criminalization? I then explain why I propose to discuss only two of these answers. Following this, a detailed and critical specification (UPC) is presented. Further, I argue that criticisms of UPC associated with the recent work of philosophers like Douglas Husak and Victor Tadros are far from convincing. I end the chapter by developing a positive reason for accepting UPC as a principle of criminalization—namely, that UPC is consistent with what I call the ‘counterproductive criminalization principle’ (CCP) while non-consequentialist theories of criminalization are not necessarily so.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Søbirk Petersen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of RoskildeRoskildeDenmark

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