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Philosophy Speakers: Gary Watson (Southern California), "A Moral Predicament in the Criminal Law"

Date & Time:
October 17, 2014 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
SS 1253

The Philosophy Speakers Program presents

GARY WATSON, "A Moral Predicament in the Criminal Law"

About the Talk

This essay is about the difficulties of doing criminal justice in the context of severe social injustice. Having been marginalized as citizens of the larger community, those who are victims of severe social injustice are understandably alienated from the dominant political institutions, and, not unreasonably, disrespect their authority, including that of the criminal law. The failure of equal treatment and protection and the absence of anything like fair and decent life prospects for the members of the marginalized populations erode the basis for its allegiance to demands of the political community. The criminal law thus occupies a problematic normative position with respect to lawbreakers in this population. On the one hand, the criminal law has a right and an obligation to protect citizens against crimes; on the other hand, because of its mistreatment of marginalized citizens, the dominant society's authority to call these defendants to account is at least compromised. The main task of this paper is to characterize the predicament in a perspicuous way.

About the Speaker

Gary Watson is Provost Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law and holds a joint appointment at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Watson's writings have shaped understanding of the nature of moral agency, moral responsibility, freedom of action, and the freedom of the will. His interest in concepts of legal responsibility targets the relations between moral and criminal responsibilities and the criminal law's conceptions of moral agency. Long regarded as a leading expert in moral theory, moral psychology, philosophy of law, and moral and criminal responsibility, Watson was named a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences in April 2014 and will be inducted at a ceremony October 11, just prior to his visit to Calgary.  His book Agency and Responsibility (Oxford UP 2004) is considered a classic.  


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