When thinking about justified criminalization -whether some action may morally be made a criminal offense -philosophers tend to rely upon 'balancing'. Arguments favoring & opposing criminalization are 'weighed' on a simple beam balance; the 'weightier' reasons prevail. Jonathan Schonsheck argues that this methodology is deeply flawed; among other infirmities, it fosters the neglect of items essential to a defensible decision. He urges the adoption of 'filtering' -a multi-step procedure which directs one to discuss the moral authority of the state, to consider measures less coercive than a criminal statute, & to investigate the pragmatic consequences of criminalization. This procedure, he argues, imposes a structure on disputes which facilitates philosophical progress. 'Filtering' is then applied to an array of public policy issues, including laws which require the use of automobile seat belts & motorcycle helmets, & laws which prohibit the use of certain psychoactive substances ('drugs'). Additionally, the book addresses a number of more theoretical issues in the philosophy of the criminal law. Throughout, it engages the work of leading philosophers: Derek Parfit, Cass R. Sunstein, Richard J. Arneson, & especially Joel Feinberg.
`This volume is in Reidel's Law and Philosophy Library which offers the best obtainable original work on legal philosophy drawn from both the Anglo-American and European traditions. ... The book provides a salutary reminder that legal philosophy is not a self-contained discipline sitting quietly by itself in the corner but one very much involved with many other disciplines...'
The Book Exchange (March 1986)