Arthur Ripstein, ‘Means and Ends’

Legal doctrine often focuses on means rather than ends. In an action for breach of contract, the court asks only whether promisor performed as promised, and takes no account of what either promisor or promisee expected to gain by the transaction. The criminal law inquires into how the criminal was trying to accomplish some purpose, not what the purpose was. Most crimes are committed to get money, a purpose of which the law otherwise approves. This focus on means is often said to be superficial, and to be the manifestation of an underlying concern either with the ends sought by a person or the ends that are served by placing legal restrictions on which means a person may use, or the manner in which they may be used. In this paper Professor Ripstein takes up Kant’s suggestion that ‘right abstracts from all ends’ to explain the law’s focus on means rather than ends, exploring its application to both public and private law.

Ripstein, Arthur, Means and Ends. Jurisprudence, Volume 6, Number 1, May 2015, pp. 1-23(23).

First posted 2015-04-16 07:27:04

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