Have a Question? Contact the Humanities Office or an Academic Unit


Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Stefan Sciaraffa

Email: sciaraf@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 311

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23467


Office Hours: By appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description:

We will be discussing philosophical questions relating to the criminal law raised in Anthony Duff’s book, Answering for Crime.  As the title indicates, Duff defines criminal wrongdoing in terms of wrongs for which the political community has standing to call its members to account (to answer) by way of criminal conviction and punishment. He argues that this frame sheds light on a variety of issues relating to the criminal law, including the question of what actions might be legitimately criminalized, the structure of criminal offences, the idea of strict criminal liability and responsibility, and the distinction between offences and defences. Each week we will read about 30 pages of Duff’s book as well as a critical response or alternative view of the issue that Duff discusses.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Anthony Duff, Answering for Crime, (Hart Publishing, 2007)

Readings Provided on Avenue to Learn

Method of Assessment:


  1. Seminar Presentation   (30%)
  2. Take Home Exam       (30%)

Assigned January 30 and due February 13.     

  1. Critical Research Essay (40%)           

Due April 9 unless presented on April 2 (in which case due April 30).


Seminar presentations will be judged on the basis of two criteria: (1) Success in outlining the main themes and arguments of the readings assigned for that week and (2) Success in highlighting one or more philosophically interesting issues worthy of class discussion. All seminars will be group efforts, probably two members per group. The size of the group will depend on the number of students enrolled in the class. 

  1. I reserve the right to deduct 5 marks (out of 100) from Essay grades and Take-Homes for every 100 words in excess of the prescribed limit.
  2. 5 marks per day (out of 100) will be deducted for late Take-Homes and Essays. Exceptions will be made only if you have a legitimate excuse. A legitimate excuse is whatever your Faculty Office will accept. Take your documentation to your Faculty Office.
  3. Essays must be submitted electronically via Avenue to Learn. You are required to keep copies (electronic or hard) of all work submitted.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

TBA. Each week will comprise a selection from Duff and an accompanying reading, totaling approximately 40 to 60 pages.

Other Course Information:

Administrative Notes

1.) The class convenes for one three-hour seminar discussion each week.  I will moderate the discussion and interject. However, the students have the primary responsibility. Each week, the discussion will be led by a group of students charged with presenting the material’s key themes and arguments and highlighting issues worthy of class discussion. On the first day of class, we will settle the presentation schedule.

2.) The scale used by the Registrar's Office will be used to convert number grades to

final letter grades.

3.) It is the policy of the Philosophy Department that all email communication between

students and instructors (including TAs) must originate from their official McMaster

University email accounts. This policy protects the confidentiality and sensitivity of

information and confirms the identities of both the student and instructor.

Philosophy department instructors will delete messages that do not originate from

McMaster email accounts.

4.) The instructor and the University reserve the right to modify elements of the course

during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all

course. If either type of modification becomes necessary, where possible reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Students should check their McMaster email and course websites frequently during the term and to note any changes.