Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Legal responsibility vs. Relational responsibility

Loyola law prof Samuel Pillsbury has posted a review essay, Learning from Forgiveness.  Here's the abstract:

Many have argued that contemporary American criminal punishment is overly harsh and unforgiving, especially in its use of mandatory minimum penalties. But what does forgiveness have to do with the criminal law? In this essay review of two recent books on the philosophy of forgiveness, I argue that forgiveness is a form of relational responsibility, in which personal interaction between judge and judged, and the value of an ongoing human relations are central features in determining personal responsibility. This contrasts with legal responsibility, which is idealized as impersonal, rule-dictated and disinterested in personal relationships. Looking at some particular uses of mandatory life sentences in California - for juvenile murderers and third strike offenders - I suggest ways that concepts of relational responsibility, including those from forgiveness, might inform how punishment decisions are made.

This sounds like another area of law that underscores the importance and insight of Stephen Darwall's work on the second-person standpoint (as brought bear on legal theory most notably by Rob Kar).  It also provides another fascinating context for exploring, as I am beginning to do, the concept of human dignity as an attribute of human relationships, not simply an intrinsic property of the human person.


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