Fair Opportunity and Responsibility sets forth an overarching normative vision of excuses, weds criminal law and moral theorizing, and provides both breadth and depth in its analysis. The early chapters articulate the underlying theoretical account, and the later chapters analyze specific potential excuses, such as insanity and structural injustice.

Brink operates within a retributivist framework, arguing that culpable wrongdoing is the basis of blame and punishment. Because we suspend blame when someone is excused, Brink believes we can understand responsibility by understanding excuses. Brink’s overall responsibility condition is the “fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing,” which includes cognitive and volitional competence (“normative competence”) as well as situational control. Capacity is determined counterfactually and is scalar.

Brink’s view is a realist conception of responsibility, where our “conception of responsibility … can be specified independently of our reactive attitudes [such that] it can serve to ground or justify those attitudes” (42). Brink takes...

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