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Justice through Apologies
Remorse, Reform, and Punishment


  • Date Published: May 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107007543

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About the Authors
  • In this follow up to I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies, Nick Smith expands his ambitious theories of categorical apologies to civil and criminal law. After rejecting court-ordered apologies as unjustifiable humiliation, this book explains that penitentiaries were originally designed to bring about penance - something like apology - and that this tradition has been lost in the assembly line of mass incarceration. Smith argues that the state should modernize these principles and techniques to reduce punishments for offenders who demonstrate moral transformation through apologizing. Smith also explains the counterintuitive situation whereby apologies come to have considerable financial worth in civil cases because victims associate them with priceless matters of the soul. Such confusions allow powerful wrongdoers to manipulate perceptions to disastrous effect, such as when corporations or governments assert that apologies do not equate to accepting blame or require reform or redress.

    • Takes an interdisciplinary treatment of the moral meanings and social functions of apologies in law
    • Offers numerous examples of apologies from ancient and very recent sources
    • Discusses current events such as apologies for the Eliot Spitzer scandal, 2008 financial crisis, 'tort reforming' apology legislation, thalidomide injures, Minamata disease, and others
    • Extensive discussion of collective apologies, such as those from corporations, nations, and other groups
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In I was Wrong, Nick Smith provided a unique and richly complex introduction to the world of apologies. Now, in this engaging follow up, Justice through Apologies, he has extended his analysis into their use in criminal and civil law. A feature of his earlier book - wonderful illustrations and endless provocative questions - graces the present one, challenging glibness and ensuring that his work will remain a go-to resource for those who, like Smith, are both impressed by the moral power of apologies but troubled by their performative exploitation.' John Kleinig, Emeritus, Department of Criminal Justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

    'The notion of apology is a complex phenomenon - it implicates timeless questions of ethics and morality, but it also has become a ritual in public and political life at time of great media scrutiny of our leaders, and of course it also is embedded in formal legal procedure at a time when most convictions result from guilty pleas and most lawsuits result in settlements. Nick Smith's new book addresses all these aspects of apology and remorse, and it should be fascinating for a wide variety of audiences. It is at once a deep essay in the mode of moral philosophy, a broad-ranging work of social anthropology, and a rigorous work of legal analysis.' Robert Weisberg, Stanford Law School

    'Smith's theoretical discussion of apology in law is a major contribution to our understanding of both the range of objections that might be raised to apology reductions as well as the interlocking reasons for accepting apology reductions. This is, quite simply, an impressively systematic and comprehensive account.' Cheshire Calhoun, Arizona State University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107007543
    • length: 418 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.73kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Categorical apologies revisited
    Part I. The Penitent and the Penitentiary: Apologies in Criminal Law:
    2. Against court ordered apologies
    3. Apology reductions in criminal law
    Part II. Apologies in Civil Law:
    4. The institutional framework: economic outcomes and non-economic values
    5. A practical framework for evaluating apologies in civil contexts.

  • Author

    Nick Smith, University of New Hampshire
    Nick Smith is an Associate Professor of philosophy at the University of New Hampshire. Formerly a litigator and a clerk for the US Court of Appeals, he specializes in the philosophy of law, politics and society. Smith is the author of I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies. He regularly appears in the media, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian UK, Fortune, NPR, BBC, CBC, CNN, and others.

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