International Conference on Conflict and Violence: Philosophical Perspectives on Crime, 21-22 April 2017

This International Conference is conceived to offer participants a support for exploring ethical, political, epistemological and metaphysical issues regarding violent crimes. The aim of the conference is to foster discussions on the philosophical underpinnings of criminology, legal punishment, and forensic psychology/psychiatry. We are also looking for novel philosophical contributions on specific types of violent crimes (terrorism, mass murder, serial murder etc.). The conference welcomes academics and researchers from various fields (law, criminology, sociology, psychology, theology etc.) with a special interest for philosophical issues.

Contributions should be focused on the following topics : classic philosophical accounts (Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Beccaria, Bentham, Kant, Hegel, Foucault etc.) on crime and legal punishment; reflections on the philosophical foundations of modern criminology or on the epistemological issues of contemporary crime studies; ethical and epistemological studies on the contemporary concepts of forensic psychiatry;  philosophical considerations on extreme crimes (terrorism, totalitarian abuses, serial murder etc.)

Motivation

At first glance, it seems that crime isn’t at all a pivotal philosophical issue. Nowadays, philosophers and criminologists are working in different university departments. Their researches seem to follow different paths. However, even if dialogues and interactions between the two areas of expertise appear to be scarce, philosophy and criminology are actually strongly connected (Williams & Arrigo, 2006, pp. 1–34).

First of all, onesometimes tends to forget that the rigid demarcations between physical sciences, social sciences and philosophy are only relatively recent phenomena. Before the appearance of modern and specialized academic disciplines (that is before the official foundation of criminology during the 19th century), reflections on crime and philosophical considerations were strongly codependent. For instance, Plato’s thoughts on crime in the Republicand in the Laws cannot be separated from his ethical theories and peculiar conceptions regarding the human soul (Mackenzie, 1981). Even if one says, in a highly schematic way, that crime is perceived as vice in ancient Greece and Rome, represented as Sin during the Middle Ages (Williams & Arrigo, 2006, pp. 7–9) and considered as a form of rational hedonism in the 17th and 18th centuries (Beccaria, 1995; Bentham, 1988), one can easily see that major shifts in the western history of ideas on crime entail specific metaphysical, theological and ethical outlooks. Moreover, the birth of modern criminology (as well as the birth of sociology) can hardly be disconnected from its philosophical background. The impact ofAuguste Comte and Emile Durkheim’s positivism not only implies a peculiar epistemology but also a strong critique of the metaphysical assumptions in western philosophy. Furthermore, this philosophical turn will have a central status for the criminological debates in the 19thcentury where the Italian positivist school (grounded by C. Lombroso, E. Ferri and R. Garofaldo) confronts the French school of criminal anthropology (lead by A. Lacassagne and G. Tarde).

Nowadays, and especially since the works of Michel Foucault (1995; 2004), western philosophy seems to be focused on the criticism of the ideological underpinnings of modern criminology. Nonetheless, contemporary philosophy is not exclusively a matter of anti-psychiatry or anti-criminology. Foremost, philosophers aim to ground and define our concepts of moral and legal responsibility (Fischer &Ravizza, 1998). Some personality disorders, like psychopathy (Malatesti& McMillan, 2010), that imply major epistemological, meta-ethical and legal issues have drawn the attention of contemporary philosophy. All these researches are of a peculiar interest in the field of forensic psychiatry. Eventually, as wrote Schopenhauer: “(…) the more specific character … of the astonishment that urges us to philosophize obviously springs from the sight of the evil and wickedness in the world.” (1966, p. 171). This would explain somemajor and contemporary philosophical concerns about totalitarian crimes (Arendt, 2006; Horkheimer& Adorno, 2007; Terestchenko, 2007) and terrorism (Habermas& Derrida, 2004; Walzer, 2006; Girard, 2009).

In brief,philosophy, crime and criminology are strongly connected on a historical as well as on a contemporary level. For the second issue of the Philosophical Conferences on Conflict and Violence (PCCV), we would like to explore these peculiar conceptual links. Proposals should be focused on the following topics:

  • Classic philosophical accounts (Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Beccaria, Bentham, Kant, Hegel etc.) on crime and legal punishment.
  • Reflections on the philosophical foundations of modern criminology or on the epistemological issues of contemporary crime studies.
  • Ethical and epistemological studies on the contemporary concepts of forensic psychiatry.
  • Philosophical considerations on extreme crimes (terrorism, totalitarian abuses, serial murder etc.).