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Not in Our Right Minds: The Implications of Reason and Passion in the Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 June 2011

Catherine Warrick
Villanova University


In this study, an examination of the legal treatment of “crimes of passion” points to important gendered aspects of the construction of both reason and passion in the law. In crimes of passion, criminal responsibility is mitigated because the perpetrator was in the grip of a strong emotion – in other words, not in his or her right mind. The legal concept of passion is, therefore, society's formal recognition of the limits of reason as a basis for social behavior.

Feminist scholarship has long argued that reason in law is not neutral but reflects dominant social interests. Less attention has been given to passion as reason's recognized opposite. It might be expected that the law's partial toleration of passion would privilege different interests. But this is not the case; in effect, although passion is reason's opposite, its construction in law reflects the same dominant values. Recent efforts to eradicate gender disparities in criminal law have led to some reconsideration of the construction of reason and the recognition of passion in some systems.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2011

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