Skip to Content
Punishment and responsibility: essays in the philosophy of law

Punishment and responsibility: essays in the philosophy of law

Hart, H. L. A. (Herbert Lionel Adolphus), 1907-1992

This collection of essays represents H.L.A. Hart's landmark contribution to the philosophy of criminal responsibility and punishment. This edition reproduces the original text, adding a new critical introduction by John Gardner, a leading contemporary criminal law theorist

eBook, Electronic resource, Book. English.
2nd ed.
Published Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008
Rate this

Available: Online

This item is not reservable because:

  • You can only request items from our lending collections. You cannot reserve journals.
  • Online – One available in E-book

    Barcode Shelfmark Loan type Status
    E-book Online Available


Statement of responsibility: by H. L. A. Hart ; with an introduction by John Gardner
ISBN: 0191720704, 9780191720703, 9780199534777
Note: Description based on print version record.
Note: Includes index.
Physical Description: 1 online resource (liii, 277 p.)
Subject: Criminal liability Great Britain.; Punishment Great Britain.


  1. Introduction
  2. 1. Prolegomenon to the Principles of Punishment
  3. 2. Legal Responsibility and Excuses
  4. 3. Murder and the Principles of Punishment: England and the United States
  5. 4. Acts of Will and Responsibility
  6. 5. Intention and Punishment
  7. 6. Negligence, Mens Rea, and Criminal Responsibility
  8. 7. Punishment and the Elimination of Responsibility
  9. 8. Changing Conceptions of Responsibility
  10. 9. Postscript: Responsibility and Retribution

Author note

The Late H.L.A. Hart was Professor of Jurisprudence in the University of Oxford from 1952 to 1968. Subsequently he became Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford. His other major works include Causation in the Law (with Tony Honoré, OUP 1959), The Concept of Law (OUP 1961) and Law, Liberty and Morality (OUP 1963).

; John Gardner has been Professor of Jurisprudence in the University of Oxford since 2000. He is a former Fellow of All Souls and Brasenose Colleges in Oxford, and has also taught at King's College London, Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, and the University of Texas. His book Offences and Defences is forthcoming from OUP.


This classic collection of essays, first published in 1968, has had an enduring impact on academic and public debates about criminal responsibility and criminal punishment. Forty years on, its arguments are as powerful as ever. H.L.A. Hart offers an alternative to retributive thinking about criminal punishment that nevertheless preserves the central distinction between guilt and innocence. He also provides an account of criminal responsibility that links the

distinction between guilt and innocence closely to the ideal of the rule of law, and thereby attempts to by-pass unnerving debates about free will and determinism. Always engaged with live issues of law and public policy, Hart makes difficult philosophical puzzles accessible and immediate to a wide range of


For this new edition, otherwise a reproduction of the original, John Gardner adds an introduction engaging critically with Hart's arguments, and explaining the continuing importance of Hart's ideas in spite of the intervening revival of retributive thinking in both academic and policy circles.

Unavailable for ten years, the new edition of Punishment and Responsibility makes available again the central text in the field for a new generation of academics, students and professionals engaged in criminal justice and penal policy.


Review from previous edition Punishment and Responsibility is still regarded as one of the cornerstones of both penal philosophy and the burgeoning field of criminal law theory in Britain, Australia, Israel and North America. Its idea of criminal responsibility ... is the inspiration for or counterpoint to almost all serious scholarship in English in the field published over the last 35 years.
Nicola Lacey, A Life of H.L.A. Hart (OUP, 2004)