I challenge in this paper a popular view on the causal requirement of criminal liability. The view, which I call physicalism about the causal relation (or physicalism, for short), puts together the claim that the causal requirement demands that the agent causes a crime result (e.g., the death of a person) for her to be paradigmatically responsible for that result, with a conception of causation according to which a causal relation is such that it can only hold between actual events, and never between omissions (or other absences) and events. Physicalism's apparent merit is that it yields an account of the differential treatment actions and omissions receive in criminal law. However, I argue, it does so at the expense of rendering puzzling other uncontroversial features of the criminal law. Moreover, I contend that physicalism is groundless; it picks out a property that just can't play the role that the causal requirement is meant to play. I sketch, finally, an alternative construction of the causal requirement, one that doesn't fall prey of the objections I raised against physicalism.
- ©© 2008 by the Regents of the University of California