Workshop on Deontological Principles and the Criminal Law

The Institute for Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University is sponsoring a workshop on Deontological Principles and the Criminal Law. (More below the fold.)

The concerns that motivate holding the workshop are these: The means principle (MP) or the doctrine of double effect (DDE) seem to many people to lie at the core of deontological morality. They also seem to pose deep problems for punishment theory. One set of problems concerns whether punishment can be justified by reference to the goods of deterrence and incapacitation without running afoul of the relevant deontological strictures, and whether retributive or other theories of punishment (perhaps self-defense related theories) can help address this problem. At another level, this debate presupposes that we have good reason to accept the MP or DDE, and there has been a fair bit of work of late questioning the moral significance of causal roles and intentions, work which challenges the moral validity of the MP and the DDE. In response to these and other critiques, a number of philosophers have come to the defense of the MP or the DDE, or have proposed alternatives.  Another way to engage the topic, then, is to think about just what form the right deontological principles should take. One might also want to embrace the skeptical conclusion that none can be adequately defended, with the implication that the task of deterring and incapacitating is less problematic than it may seem. These are two of the levels at which we hope this workshop can be fruitful. But other issues relevant to the general theme of the workshop may be developed by those writing papers for it.

The workshop will feature eight new papers on the themes of the workshop, along with eight commentaries. Participants in the workshop will be expected to have read the eight papers in advance. Each session will start off with commentary on one paper, followed by a short reply from the author of the paper, and then approximately 45 minutes for discussion.

The workshop will be held on Friday, October 25 and Saturday October 26, 2013, at the University Inn and Conference Center at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. The program includes papers by Fiery Cushman, Alex Guerrero, Matthew Liao, Dana Kay Nelkin, Gerhart Overland, Jonathan Quong, Victor Tadros, and Ralph Wedgwood. The scheduled commentators are Larry Alexander, Liz Harman, Heidi Hurd, Jeff McMahan, Michael Moore, Steve Stich, Alec Walen, and David Wasserman.

As space in the room is limited, anyone interested in attending should contact Alec Walen at

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