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Public Guest Seminar - Institutionalising Forgiveness : Interpersonal Ideas in Criminal Justice

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In a series of papers over the last decade, philosopher Hanna Pickard and I have begun to develop a revised vision of criminal justice grounded in Pickard’s model of responsibility without blame. In this seminar, I will provide a brief recap on Pickard’s and my core position, in particular our defence of a reconceived criminal process oriented to forgiveness. Second, I shall turn to two important conceptual questions about how to institutionalise those ideas: first, the question of whether, and how, it is possible to mobilise ideas like forgiveness which find their origin in moral psychology and interpersonal relations within a very different, institutionalised, universalised and professionalised world such as criminal justice; second, the more specific question of whether it is possible to borrow or adapt moral ideas and dispositions into legal and (with a small ‘p’) political institutions without implying a legal moralist position: in other words, the idea that criminal justice is fundamentally concerned with the enforcement of (pre-legal) moral values. Third, I will consider a range of existing features of criminal justice systems which seem open to reconceptualization and institutional adaptation so as better to fit with Pickard’s and my conception of criminal justice, as well as a range of existing practices which would need to be abolished on our vision. And in conclusion, I will briefly consider the implications of my argument – both in relation to crime and punishment and for social policy more generally – for institutions beyond the criminal justice system.

A drinks reception for informal conversation will take place in the basement common room for all who attend in person.

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