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Baron, , . Excuses, Excuses
2007, Criminal Law and Philosophy 1 (1):21-39
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Joe Slater

Abstract: Justifications and excuses are defenses that exculpate. They are therefore much more like each other than like such defenses as diplomatic immunity, which does not exculpate. But they exculpate in different ways, and it has proven difficult to agree on just what that difference consists in. In this paper I take a step back from justification and excuse as concepts in criminal law, and look at the concepts as they arise in everyday life. To keep the task manageable, I focus primarily on excuses and excusing activities, distinguishing them from justifications as well as from other close relatives, in particular, forgiving and pardoning. I draw upon J.L. Austin-s classic ‘A Plea for Excuses,’ but expand on his account, suggesting that we offer excuses for reasons besides those he mentions. My hope is that my examination of excuses and excusing activities will help us rethink our views on just how justifications and excuses differ, views which often are worked out without much attention to how these concepts function in everyday life and to the connection between offers of excuses and justifications and the ‘’rules of civility.’

Comment: Baron explains the typical distinction between justifications and excuses. Her examination of these concepts draws upon Austin’s ‘A Plea for Excuses’, and use of the everyday concept, she presses for a rethink of how philosophers and legal theorists think about excuses.

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Hsin-wen, Lee, , . Does the death penalty only deter ‘rational’ people?
2018, Delaware State News
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Hsin-Wen Lee

Abstract: I argue that the death penalty has only limited deterrent effect. It cannot deter three types of offenders: (1) those who do not fear death; (2) those who are not rational and cannot take into consideration the consequences of their actions; (3) those who are confident that they won’t be caught. Thus, in order to deter potential murderers, we must consider new ways to deter these three types of offenders.

Comment: The article is written for for a general audience. It considers the deterrence argument in favor of the death penalty. It should be useful for GE courses that cover the topic of the death penalty.

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Hsin-wen, Lee, , . Taking Deterrence Seriously: The Wide-Scope Deterrence Theory of Punishment
2017, Criminal Justice Ethics 36 (1):2-24.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Hsin-Wen Lee

Abstract: A deterrence theory of punishment holds that the institution of criminal punishment is morally justified because it serves to deter crime. Because the fear of external sanction is an important incentive in crime deterrence, the deterrence theory is often associated with the idea of severe, disproportionate punishment. An objection to this theory holds that hope of escape renders even the severest punishment inapt and irrelevant.This article revisits the concept of deterrence and defend a more plausible deterrence theory of punishment – the wide-scope deterrence theory. The wide-scope theory holds that we must make the best use of all the deterrence tools available, including both external and internal sanctions. Drawing on insights from the early Confucian tradition, the article develops a deep deterrence theory, which holds that the most important deterrence tool involves internal, not external, sanction. It describes how internal sanctions deter potential offenses and why relevant policies need not conflict with liberalism’s respect for neutrality.

Comment: This text can be used in courses such as Philosophy of Law and/or Social and Political Philosophy.
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Jaggar, Alison, , . Reasoning About Well-Being: Nussbaum’s Methods of Justifying the Capabilities.
2006, Journal of Political Philosophy 14(3): 301-322.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Content: Discusses Nussbaum’s methodology and the question of whether she covertly relies on assumptions about her own moral authority.

Comment: Most useful as further reading on political liberalism or the capability approach.
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Kelly, Erin, , McPherson, Lionel. On tolerating the unreasonable
2001, Journal of Political Philosophy 9(1): 38–55.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Diversifying Syllabi: Justice requires us to acknowledge the claims of morally or philosophically unreasonable persons, as long as they are politically reasonable; such people must be tolerated and considered part of the social contract. Toleration as wide public justification is the proper response to the pluralism characteristic of modern democratic societies.

Comment: This text is useful as a commentary or response to the debate about (un)reasonableness and legitimacy sparked by Rawls. More specifically, it offers a distinction between political and philosophical reasonableness, which the authors use to argue against interpreting or developing Rawls’s political liberalism in a less tolerant direction. The section on Barbara Herman’s ‘Pluralism and the Community of Moral Judgment’ helpfully distils a major faultline within liberal political philosophy.

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McTernan, Emily, , . How to Make Citizens Behave: Social Psychology, Liberal Virtues, and Social Norms
2014, Journal of Political Philosophy 22(1): 84-104.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Abstract: It is widely conceded by liberals that institutions alone are insufficient to ensure that citizens behave in the ways required for a liberal state to flourish, be stable, or function at all. A popular solution proposes cultivating virtues in order to secure the desired behaviours of citizens, where institutions alone would not suffice. A range of virtues are proposed to fill a variety of purported gaps in the liberal political order. Some appeal to virtues in order to secure state stability; Rawls, for instance, claims that ‘citizens must have a sense of justice and the political virtues that support political and social institutions’ in order to ensure an ‘enduring society’. For Galston, citizens must possess a range of virtues in order for the state to function, including the virtues of courage, independence, tolerance, willingness to engage in public discourse, and law-abidingness.

Comment: Challenges the relevance of debates about virtue for liberals concerned with stability and argues that they would be better advised to look to social norms for assistance. Raises some interesting questions for proponents of liberalism and does a nice job of envisioning the instrumental potential of social norms for political theorists. Very useful further reading for anyone interested in (or writing on) either stability or social norms.

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Mendus, Susan, , . Politics and Morality
2009, Polity.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Publisher’s Note: Public disenchantment with politics has become a key feature of the world in which we live. Politicians are increasingly viewed with suspicion and distrust, and electoral turnout in many modern democracies continues to fall. But are we right to display such contempt towards our elected representatives? Can politicians be morally good or is politics destined to involve dirty hands or the loss of integrity, as many modern philosophers claim? In this book, Susan Mendus seeks to address these important questions to assess whether this apparent tension between morality and politics is real and, if so, why.

Beginning with an account of integrity as involving a willingness to stand by ones most fundamental moral commitments, the author discusses three reasons for thinking that politics undermines integrity and is incompatible with morality. These are: the relationship between politics and utilitarian calculation; the possibility that the realm of politics is a separate realm of value; and the difficulty of reconciling the demands of different social roles. She concludes that, in the modern world, we all risk losing our integrity. To that extent, we are all politicians. Moreover, we have reason to be glad that politicians are not always morally good.

Written with verve and clarity, this book provides students and general readers an accessible guide to the philosophical debates about the complex relationship between politics and morality in the contemporary world.

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Olsaretti, Serena, , . Freedom, Force and Choice: Against the Rights-Based Definition of Voluntariness
1998, Journal of Political Philosophy 6(1): 53-78.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Introduction: This paper argues that a moralised definition of voluntariness, alongside the more familiar moralised definition of freedom, underlies libertarian justifications of the unbridled market. Through an analysis of Nozick’s account of voluntary choice, I intend to reveal some fatal mistakes, and to put forward some suggestions regarding what a satisfactory account of voluntary choice requires.

Comment: Offers a number of influential criticisms of Nozickian libertarianism and goes on to lay out the basis for Olsaretti’s own influential account of voluntariness. Would make a good required reading or further reading.

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Olsaretti, Serena, , . The Concept of Voluntariness – A Reply
2008, Journal of Political Philosophy 16(1): 165-188.
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Abstract: In his paper on ‘The Concept of Voluntariness’, Ben Colburn helpfully takes up the task of developing my view about the sense of voluntariness that is relevant for judgments of substantive responsibility, or judgments about individuals’ liability to pick up some costs of their choices. On my view, a necessary condition for holding people responsible for their choices is that those choices be voluntary in the sense that they are not made because there is no acceptable alternative, where the standard for the acceptability of options is an objective standard of well-being. […] Colburn’s first point is entirely well-taken. By way of endorsing it, I ask whether we are justified in taking some but not all kinds of beliefs to affect the voluntariness of choice, as his elaboration of my view suggests. However, I find Colburn’s second point less convincing, and argue that we should allow for the moral character of options to affect the voluntariness of choice.

Comment: Short debate article responding to some criticisms of Olsaretti’s account of voluntariness made by Ben Colburn and probably best read in conjunction with Colburn’s article. Does a good job of responding to the criticisms and explaining her account. Good further reading for teaching about voluntariness and autonomy.

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Srinivasan, Amia, , . The Aptness of Anger
2018, Journal of Political Philosophy, 26 (2):123-144
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: This paper argues that anger has an important role in political life. By not recognising this, we risk neglecting groups for whom anger is appropriate, and who have never been allowed to be angry.

Comment: This paper is a great conversation starter about the place of anger in political philosophy. It provides original arguments that can go against a lot of students’ initial intuitions on the topic, so can be a great way to start discussion and debate. I’d use it on classes on politics, feminism, or applied ethics.

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Terlazzo, Rosa, , . Conceptualizing Adaptive Preferences Respectfully: An Indirectly Substantive Account
2016, The Journal of Political Philosophy 24(2): 206-226.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Abstract: While the concept of adaptive preferences is an important tool for criticizing injustice, it is often claimed that using the concept involves showing disrespect for persons judged to have adaptive preferences. In this paper, I propose an account of adaptive preferences that does the relevant political work while still showing persons two centrally important kinds of respect. My account is based in what I call an indirect substantive account of autonomy, which places substantive requirements on the options available to a person, rather than on the option that she ultimately prefers. This allows us to pinpoint cases in which a person’s circumstances have rendered her insufficiently autonomous, without saying that any conception of the good must be non-autonomous tout court.

Comment: This article would make good recommended reading for a session taking an in-depth look at adaptive preferences, or further reading if the topic was autonomy and the session broached questions about preference formation.

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