Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021

Publication Title

Temple International and Comparative Law Journal


coherentism, deontic reasoning, criminal law, punishment


Darryl Robinson’s new book, Justice in Extreme Cases: Criminal Law Theory Meets International Criminal Law, presents a compelling argument: that international criminal law would benefit from deontic reasoning. According to Robinson, this type of deontic reasoning “requires us to consider the limits of personal fault and punishability,” and is a “normative reasoning that focuses on our duties and obligations to others.” Moreover, Robinson argues in this book that coherentism is the best method for identifying and defining deontic principles. Robinson explains that coherentism is an approach where “[w]e use all of our critical reasoning tools to test past understandings for bias and inapt assumptions” and where “we can take common formulations of fundamental principles as starting hypotheses, then continue to test and refine them.” The advantage of coherentism, according to Robinson, is that it allows us to work with all available clues in order to solve problems of the middle range and to develop “mid-level principles,” which we can test to analyze whether they are normatively correct or analytically useful, and which we can then use to reform our practice. In order to develop his argument, Robinson uses command responsibility as an example; he posits that under the deontic reasoning model, command responsibility should be recognized in international criminal law as a mode of accessory liability. Robinson thus proposes a novel way of analyzing command responsibility—through the lens of deontic principles developed by using a coherentist model. Robinson’s book is a significant contribution to existing literature within the field of international criminal law because of both its general analysis regarding how the field should continue to develop, and also in light of its more pointed analysis regarding command responsibility.