Setting Things Right

September 4, 2024 - September 6, 2024
Manchester Centre for Political Theory, The University of Manchester

United Kingdom

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Stockholm University
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Culpable wrongdoing gives rise to permissions and obligations to set things right, particularly on the part of perpetrators, but also on the part of victims and third parties. Numerous moral practices seem to aim at such right-setting:

·      Perpetrators may try to set things right by apologizing to their victims, providing assurance that they won’t repeat their offense, mending what has been broken, and minimizing or compensating for whatever distress or material harm they caused. Many think that the perpetrator’s deserved suffering of guilt or other hardships go into setting things right, and many perpetrators feel that self-punishment is part of what is required.

·      Victims may attempt to prompt perpetrators into setting things right; on some accounts, this is the core function of moral blame, or of moral indignation and resentment. They may also protest the wrongdoing, and elicit support from third parties and assurance that such wrongdoing is not accepted in the community. In addition, victims may feel a need to “get even” with the perpetrator, and to inflict costs deterring from future transgressions.

·      Third parties may similarly try to prompt perpetrators into action, or they may reassure victims—and perpetrators—that the wrongdoing is not accepted, help compensate victims for the wrongful harms suffered, or inflict costs on perpetrators to deter further wrongdoing, or because this seems deserved.

To understand these various practices, we need to understand what it is that has been set wrong by culpable wrongdoing, such that the aforementioned behaviours (e.g., apologizing to victims, reassuring or compensating victims, inflicting costs on perpetrators) can be successful means of setting things right. The literature contains a variety of suggestions, many of which fall into one of two camps. The first understands culpable wrongdoing as creating a moral debt that needs to be repaid. Accordingly, setting things right involves restitution, retribution, or compensation. The second understands it as causing damage to relationships, damage that needs to be repaired. Setting things right then involves the wrongdoer’s new commitment to relationship norms, assurance of such commitment, alignment of normative expectations, and reconciliation of the parties through restoration of moral relationship.

Some recent work has enriched our understanding of these theoretical approaches and their relationships, and there have been many insightful discussions of the more specific phenomena of (e.g.) compensation, blame, apology, forgiveness, and retributive desert. But many questions still remain, about the connection between ideas of moral debt and desert and those of relationship restoration, and about particular ways of setting things right, by particular actors. This workshop aims to bring together philosophers working on these questions, in order to make progress on the moral and political dimensions of setting things right.

All participants (incl. accepted speakers) must register with the MANCEPT conference in advance of the workshop. The fees for this year are as follows:

  • Academics: £295
  • PG: £165
  • Conference Dinner (Academics): £40
  • Conference Dinner (PG): £25

If you are a graduate student, MANCEPT has a small number of fee-waiver bursaries for which you can apply after acceptance. The deadline is June 28th.

For questions about this workshop, please contact the convenors at [email protected] or [email protected]. For more information about MANCEPT, please visit

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June 28, 2024, 11:45pm BST

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