Jim Staihar, LAPA Fellow; University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business

Forgiving Criminals

Mon, 05/03/2010
4:30-6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 

Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with LAPA Fellow Jim Staihar, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business.  His commentator will be Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet. 

For those planning to attend the seminar, hard copies are available during regular business hours in 416A Robertson Hall, or you may write to Judi Rivkin at jrivkin@princeton.edu.

Jim Staihar writes: "When someone commits a crime with no exculpatory defenses, he is blameworthy and deserves to be punished. We sometimes assume, though, that a criminal is forgivable. In this paper, I explain what it means and when it is warranted to forgive criminals. I argue that a crime undermines the conditions necessary to our being justified in believing that the criminal is not disposed to commit crimes at the time of assessment. When we blame the criminal, we presuppose he undermined such conditions, and we demand him to restore them by demonstrating that he has developed a good will. Forgiving the criminal consists in suspending a previously warranted attitude of moral blame toward him in response to the judgment that he has restored the conditions of trust he undermined by committing his crime. My theory reveals an important, unappreciated connection between the concepts of forgiveness and punitive desert.  Prior theorists suggest the state could be justified in punishing criminals even after others are warranted in forgiving them. I show the contrary. In the standard case, people are warranted in forgiving a criminal only if she has undertaken all the punishment she deserves. My view also illuminates the distinction between forgivable and unforgivable criminals."

LAPA Fellow Jim Staihar  is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business. Before coming to Princeton, he served as a Law and Philosophy Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.  Staihar's main scholarly interests are in criminal law theory, ethics, jurisprudence, and political philosophy. He earned an A.B. in philosophy from Cornell University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He served as an editor on the Harvard Law Review. Following law school, he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Michigan, where he wrote a dissertation on the justification of state punishment.  While in graduate school, Staihar held a John M. Olin Fellowship in Law and Economics at the University of Michigan Law School.  In his dissertation, he defends a novel theory of why and how much criminals deserve to be punished. He has published in the journals Law and Philosophy, New Criminal Law Review, and Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.  At LAPA, he has worked on several projects involving an issue of punitive desert or blameworthiness. Some of these projects concern the role that moral luck should play in criminal liability, permissible forms of punishment, and the plausibility of a principle of alternate possibilities. More generally, he will explore limits on the types of conduct that a state is permitted to criminalize.

Gideon Rosen received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1992. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1993, having taught previously at the University of Michigan. His areas of research include metaphysics, epistemology and moral philosophy. He is the author (with John Burgess) of A Subject With No Object (Oxford, 1997). In 2002, he was the recipient of a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, which gave him the opportunity to spend the 2003-2004 academic year at the New York University Law School taking the first-year law school curriculum and serving as a Hauser Fellow in Global Law. Gideon Rosen is Chair of the Council of the Humanities.