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Rape: A Philosophical Investigation

NCJ Number
K Burgess-Jackson
Date Published
255 pages
This philosophical work sifts and sorts through the various issues that arise in the law of rape, distinguishing those that are conceptual in nature from those that are either normative or empirical, and showing how, where, and why these issues are interconnected.
Part I investigates the concept of rape. The first chapter examines the word "rape," how it is used, what it means, and what it implies. The author argues that a common complaint against radical feminists -- that they persuasively define the word "rape" to include acts properly characterized as seduction -- is unfounded. The discussion identifies three theories of rape, each of which purports to make sense of the behavior and account for its harmfulness. These theories are called "conservative," "liberal," and "radical." Part I provides the conceptual framework for the remainder of the book. Part II is empirical and expository. Its aim is to present the main features of the law of rape as it has developed and now exists in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Great Britain and other English-speaking countries. The law of rape raises a number of distinctive constitutional problems, such as the clash between rape-shield laws on the one hand and the rights to counsel and a fair trial on the other. The chapters in this section describe some of these problems in the course of sketching the history of rape law. One chapter details the developments that have occurred in the law of rape during the past two decades, many of which were inspired by the feminist movement. The author also identifies legislative and judicial trends in this area of criminal law. The law of rape raises a number of normative issues. Part III of the book describes the main lines of argument on each topic in rape law, showing which values and theories the various arguments presuppose, and in some cases supporting the author's own conclusion. A 289-item bibliography, a subject index, and an appended paper on theory acceptance, ontological commitment, and rational persuasion


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