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Moral Judgments in Criminal Law

Legal Principles for Applying Moral Norms in Pluralist Societies

German criminal law provides a set of norms that (ostensibly) presuppose a moral judgment. For example, public prosecutors and courts have to judge questions of “reprehensibility,” “common decency,” and “base motives.” How are such assessments to be made in an ideologically neutral state?
This dissertation project assumes that the societal conditions under which these judgments are made have changed considerably in recent decades, with moral views in Germany having become increasingly pluralistic. This phenomenon can be attributed to a significant amount of migration, to globalization, and to the prevailing social trend towards individualism. The plurality of views in society is reflected not least in the increasing differentiation and fragmentation of political camps, religious and ideological convictions, and sexual mores. In view of the dissolution of commonly shared moral ideas, the question arises as to the legal standard for assessing morally loaded norms. Considering the principles of constitutional law, basic concepts of criminal law, and, where appropriate, approaches from the English-language literature, a range of potential solutions will be developed and compared.


Expected outcome: Dissertation
Research focus: III. Criminal Law in Fragmented Societies
Project language: German
Illustration: © Patel

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