Uehiro Lectures 2010 - Lecture 3: Professor Masaki Ichinose, "Modes of Responsibility: Death Penalty and Human Rights"

Past Event

25 November 2010, 6:30pm - 8:30pm

St Cross College
61 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ

In these lectures, I will discuss criminal responsibility from a philosophical point of view (including some Japanese perspectives). I will scrutinize these issues by distinguishing three perspectives on criminal responsibility, namely, that of the “victim”, “offender”, and “punishment”. My aim in discussing the issue of victims is to raise and analyse a question of who constitutes a victim, particularly in the case of homicide. This question is examined by confronting a contemporary problem in the metaphysics of death, that is, whether dead people could suffer harm or not. Secondly, I will investigate how to estimate, as far as is scientifically possible, how responsible an offender is for their offence. This problem would be tackled by considering the notion of mens rea, taking into account the contemporary debates on free will and neuroethics. In considering this issue, I intend to adopt a probabilistic approach and propose concepts of “degrees of freedom and responsibility”. Thirdly, I will discuss the new and traditional problem of how to justify a system of punishment. In particular, my focus here is upon the issue of capital punishment and the concept of restorative justice (notwithstanding the fact that capital punishment has been abolished in the UK). My approach to this issue might be called “impossibilism” rather than retentionism or abolitionism. These three topics which I will consider roughly correspond to three basic modal concepts, namely, “actuality”, “possibility”, and “necessity (i.e. normativity)” respectively, so I have called these lectures “Modes of Responsibility”.

Death Penalty and Human Rights
In this lecture I will take a historical approach to investigate the issue of the death penalty. Namely, I will examine John Locke’s theory of property rights, i.e. the labour theory of property, on the basis of which I will discuss the justifiability and possibility of the death penalty. The crucial question is whether our lives themselves could be categorized as an object of our property rights or not. Arguing this question, I will propose my view, which might be called ‘impossibilism’ on the death penalty rather than retentionism or abolitionism. The impossibilism is a hypothetical or conditional view presupposing the theory of human rights. Thus, I will finally scrutinize how to estimate the theory of human rights in general.

Masaki Ichinose is a Professor at The University of Tokyo. His main research interests are causation, probability, and the concept of person. Publications include in 1997, „The Rise of Person-Knowledge Theory: The Moment of John Locke? published by The University of Tokyo Press (in Japanese) and in 2001, The Labyrinth of Cause and Effect? published by Keiso publishing company (in Japanese) and in 2006, „The Labyrinth of Cause and Reason: The Philosophy of "Because"? published by Keiso publishing company (in Japanese). In 1998 he won the Watsuji Tetsuro Prize of Culture and the Nakamura Hajime Prize.

All welcome, no booking required. For further information, email nicholas.iles@philosophy.ox.ac.uk