7 Utrecht L. Rev. 1 (2011)

handle is hein.journals/utrecht7 and id is 1 raw text is: This article is published in a peer-reviewed section of the Utrecht Law Review
Theorizing criminal intent: a methodological account
Ferry de Jong*
1. Introduction
1.1. The argument
The concept of intent constitutes one of the central concepts in substantive criminal law. Before
the court can convict a person of a certain intent crime, it must have been declared proven that
the offender committed the unlawful act under consideration intentionally, that is: knowingly and
willingly. The concept has attracted much doctrinal attention in the Netherlands over the last few
years. The doctrinal discussion has focused, among other things, on a rather difficult question
pertaining to the nature of the concept: does the concept of intent designate an essentially
'psychic' or an essentially 'normative' phenomenon? While some theories hold that the concept
of intent refers to the substance of the subjective and internal intention with which the offender
has performed his action, other theories hold that the concept refers exclusively to the inter-
subjective meaning which can be attributed to the action externally on the basis of social,
constitutive norms. In my doctoral dissertation I defended the thesis according to which the
concept of intent designates an essentially psychic or mental and therefore normative phenome-
non.' In this article I want to, first of all, argue for this proposition on the nature of criminal
intent. Secondly, I will discuss a number of normative implications that ensue from the rather
abstract account of the nature of criminal intent for the way courts or other adjudicating institu-
tions are to arrive at the conclusion that a defendant did or did not act intentionally. To this
extent, this article also intends to contribute to an aspect of the wide discussion on the legitimacy
or justifiability of criminal judgments.
The argument to be discussed is roughly grounded on the recognition that intent is not to
be understood as a substance or a 'thing', which could be localized somewhere, e.g. in the mind
*  Dr. F. de Jong (email: f.deiongl@uu.nl) is Assistant Professor at the Willem  Pompe Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, Utrecht
University School of Law, Boothstraat 6, 3512 BW Utrecht, the Netherlands. I wish to thank the anonymous reviewer for the useful
comments on an earlier version of this article.
1  F. de Jong, Daad-Schuld. Bijdrage aan een strafrechtelijke Handelingsleer met bijzondere aandacht voor de Normativering van het delicts-
bestanddeel Opzet, 2009. The central research question of the study was formulated as follows: in what way does intentional human
conduct acquire criminal relevance, in such a manner that the said conduct may be characterized as criminally intentional or possibly
negligent conduct?
URN:NBN:N L:Ul:10-1-101158                   www.utrechtlawreview.orq Volume 7, Issue 1 (January) 2011
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