What Is Crime?

Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State's failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.

- H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia

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The criminal law defines a range of public wrongs and it provides for those who commit such wrongs to be called to answer for them through the criminal process of trial and punishment. We also allow for a number of conditions which mute or nullify our responsibility for a given crime: intention, causation, omission etc. This week on The Philosopher's Zone, we look at criminal responsibility and its assumptions about rationality.

Listen to The Philosopher's Zone episode on Criminal Responsibility and the Rational Mind

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Debates about people who have committed crimes are littered with epithets. We brand people as offenders, criminals, crooks, felons, convicts, lawbreakers, outlaws and delinquents. We label those who spend time in prison jailbirds and yardbirds. And we call those who’ve completed their sentences ex-offenders, ex-convicts and ex-cons. We also apply more specific epithets to people for particular offences, such as thief, murderer, rapist, sex offender, paedophile and serial killer. . . .

In many other social areas, we have moved away from this kind of labelling. We’ve largely abandoned labels such as the autistic, the handicapped, the retarded, the disabled, the blind, the poor, and the undeserving poor. We now see just how prejudiced these labels are. We recognise that giving people such labels hides the real complexity of their situation, and limits their ability to shape their own lives. Instead, we speak now of ‘people who have autism’, ‘people who are living in poverty’, ‘people with visual impairments’, and ‘people with disabilities’.

So why use epithets in the area of crime?...

Continue reading Kimberley Brownlee's article: Stop labelling people who commit crimes 'criminals'

Further Reading

In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term "crime" does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, though statutory definitions have been provided for certain purposes. The most popular view is that crime is a category created by law; in other words, something is a crime if declared as such by the relevant and applicable law. One proposed definition is that a crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society or the state ("a public wrong"). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Crime

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Related Topics

If you’re interested in crime, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 AuthorityCivil DisobedienceFreedomPolitical Philosophy | Punishment | Sociology

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