I’m delighted to be participating in the annual conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, which begins tomorrow and runs through Saturday. This year’s theme is “Through Every Human Heart” and focuses on ideas of good and evil.
I’m on a criminal law panel moderated by Rick Garnett and together with Cecelia Klingele, John Stinneford, and Meghan Ryan. My remarks will consider the fate of evil as a concept in scholarship about criminal law and punishment. If I have some time left over, I’ll talk about good too. My general thesis is that both of these ideas are basically irrelevant in academic discussion of criminal law (I wrote something about this years ago in an old blog post…time flies).
Here is an interesting looking work of intellectual history concerning the 18th century, which traces the development of various important Enlightenment ideas about morality in Great Britain: Moral Philosophy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: God, Self, and Other (CUP), by Colin Heydt.
The long eighteenth century is a crucial period in the history of ethics, when our moral relations to God, ourselves and others were minutely examined and our duties, rights and virtues systematically and powerfully presented. Colin Heydt charts the history of practical morality – what we ought to do and to be – from the 1670s, when practical ethics arising from Protestant natural law gained an institutional foothold in England, to early British responses to the French Revolution around 1790. He examines the conventional philosophical positions concerning the content of morality, and utilizes those conventions to reinterpret the work of key figures including Locke, Hume, and Smith. Situating these positions in their thematic and historical contexts, he shows how studying them challenges our assumptions about the originality, intended audience, and aims of philosophical argument during this period. His rich and readable book will appeal to a range of scholars and students.