New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Law, 2011


This short paper is a draft of soon-to-be-published comments on Gideon Yaffe’s paper “Excusing Mistakes of Law.” In this paper, I question Yaffe's strategy for defending the distinction drawn between excuses based on mistakes of law and excuses based on mistakes of fact. In particular, I question whether Yaffe's reliance on the notion of deliberation can do the work he suggests it can in providing a normative defense for the fact that "false beliefs about non-legal facts often excuse, but false beliefs about the law rarely excuse."

These comments were originally presented at the 2011 Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association upon the occasion of Yaffe’s paper being awarded the Berger Prize for being the “best article or chapter in the field of legal philosophy in the past two years.” These comments (along with comments by Mark Greenberg and a response by Gideon Yaffe) will be published in the APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Law.

Date of Authorship for this Version



mistake of fact, mistake of law, deliberation, responsibility, criminal law