Blackmail, Subjectivity and Culpability

Ram Rivlin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The best way to cope with what is known as the paradox of blackmail-a threat to act permissibly-is to deny its premise, namely the permissibility of the threatened act. This view holds that upon reflection all cases of wrongful blackmail actually involve a threat to act impermissibly. Therefore, blackmail is coercive, and should be criminalized as a regular case of extortion. This conclusion may rely on a subjectivist notion of permissibility, which sees intentions as relevant to permissibility, given that the blackmailer intends to harm the victim via the threatened act. Yet the view that intentions are relevant to permissibility evaluations is strongly criticized in contemporary moral theory. Nevertheless, this paper attempts to show that under a full understanding of the functions of coercion claims and the wrong in extortion, harmful intentions can be relevant to criminalization even if they are not directly relevant to permissibility.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)399-424
Number of pages26
JournalCanadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence.


  • Blackmail
  • coercion
  • criminalization
  • extortion
  • harmful intentions


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