Theology and Philosophy

Simone Weil Lecture 2010

2010 Simone Weil Lecture on Human Value

To Whom Must We Answer? Responsibility, Community and Criminal Law

By Antony Duff

Listen to Antony Duff's Lecture by visiting the Slow TV website.

In Sydney

Monday 2 August

5.30 for 6.00pm, Dixson Room, Mitchell Wing, State Library of NSW, Macquarie St Sydney

Cost:$22, $15 (Friends, student concessions), $20 (seniors) - includes light refreshments

Bookings Essential on 02 9273 1770 or

In Melbourne

Thursday 5 August

6.30pm, Michael Chamberlin Lecture Theatre, St Vincent’s Hospital Function Centre, 27 Victoria Parade (Cnr Nicholson Street), Fitzroy Melbourne

Free, No Bookings Required

About Antony Duff

The Simone Weil Lectures on Human Value - 2010

Antony Duff is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Stirling, and a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is internationally renowned for his work on the philosophy of criminal law - in particular on the philosophy of punishment, and on issues that connect the philosophy of action with the basic principles of criminal liability.

Amongst his many publications he has written Trials and Punishments; Criminal Attempts; and Punishment, Communication and Community. More recently, he has published Answering for Crime, which focuses on the structures of criminal responsibility; and, with Lindsay Farmer, Sandra Marshall, and Victor Tadros, The Trial on Trial III: Towards a Normative Theory of the Criminal Trial.

Lecture Abstract

A central function of criminal law, I will argue, concerns the attribution of responsibility. The criminal law defines a range of public wrongs—wrongs that are the business of all members of the political community; and it provides for those who commit such wrongs to be called to answer (held responsible) for them through the criminal process of trial and punishment.

Such a practise of calling wrongdoers to answer depends on the existence of a community to which the wrongdoers and those who hold them responsible belong: for to call another person to answer, to hold him responsible, is to address him as a fellow member of a community by whose values we are all both bound and protected. In the context of domestic criminal law, that community is the polity: in a liberal democracy criminal wrongdoers are called to answer to their fellow citizens, as fellow members of the polity.

This perspective on criminal law highlights some important questions about the way in which offenders are treated, and seen, by their fellow citizens. We must ask whether the institutions and practices of our criminal laws (and we, in whose name those institutions act) do address offenders and defendants as citizens; we must ask what kind of criminal law, and in particular what kinds of punishment, citizens can properly impose on each other; and we must ask what moral consequences flow from a failure to recognise our civic fellowship with those whom we would punish.