Legal Punishment and Collective Agency

November 27, 2017 - November 28, 2017
Department of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Parkville VIC 3010


  • Society for Applied Philosophy


Stephanie Collins
University of Manchester
Deakin University
Monash University
Toni Erskine
University of New South Wales
Joanna Kyriakakis
Monash University
Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne
Philip Pettit
Australian National University/Princeton University
Murdoch University
Janna Thompson
La Trobe University
Bilkent University


Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne
Anne Schwenkenbecher
Murdoch University

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Workshop Information, Aims and Purposes

The law does not only punish discreet individual agents, but recognizes that incorporated agents can be liable to legal punishment, for instance where a corporation causes harm to individuals or the environment (such as in the UK's Corporate Manslaughter Act). The law further recognizes that individuals can be liable to punishment for what they have done as members of (not incorporated) groups of individuals, that is, for what they did together with others, rather than individually, for example where a mob of people beats up and kills another person.

While the philosophical literature on collective agency and collective moral responsibility is burgeoning, there are very few systematic discussions of the philosophical implications of collective legal responsibility (Erskine 2010, Wringe 2012, Wringe 2016). Likewise, there is much literature on the morality and philosophical implications of legal punishment, but not much of that focuses on collective agency in this context.

This workshop is meant to be a starting point for a more systematic debate of the issue of collective legal responsibility. Its aims at:

(1)  Mapping the ontological and normative commitments of existing accounts of group agency in the law and comparing these to existing accounts of group agency and collective responsibility in the discipline of Philosophy.

(2)  Critically evaluating the ontological and normative commitments concerning collective agency and responsibility in the law. Are there inconsistencies? Should certain legal notions be changed to accommodate insights from moral philosophy, philosophy of action and social ontology? Are there gaps in responsibility, where those who are clearly morally responsible do not face legal consequences due to the underlying notion of collective responsibility in the law? Or else, do we ‘over-punish’ some individuals or groups on the basis of questionable accounts of collective agency?

Workshop location: University of Melbourne, Parkville Campus, Arts West, North Wing, Room 561

This event is sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy

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November 27, 2017, 4:00am +10:00

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University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne
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Bond University

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