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The 2010 Uehiro Lectures

Professor Masaki Ichinose (University of Tokyo) ‘Modes of Responsibility’
(Click on lecture date for further details)

In these lectures, I will discuss criminal responsibility from a philosophical point of view (including some Japanese perspectives). I will scrutinize these issues by distinguishing three perspectives on criminal responsibility, namely, that of the “victim”, “offender”, and “punishment”. My aim in discussing the issue of victims is to raise and analyse a question of who constitutes a victim, particularly in the case of homicide. This question is examined by confronting a contemporary problem in the metaphysics of death, that is, whether dead people could suffer harm or not. Secondly, I will investigate how to estimate, as far as is scientifically possible, how responsible an offender is for their offence. This problem would be tackled by considering the notion of mens rea, taking into account the contemporary debates on free will and neuroethics. In considering this issue, I intend to adopt a probabilistic approach and propose concepts of “degrees of freedom and responsibility”. Thirdly, I will discuss the new and traditional problem of how to justify a system of punishment. In particular, my focus here is upon the issue of capital punishment and the concept of restorative justice (notwithstanding the fact that capital punishment has been abolished in the UK). My approach to this issue might be called “impossibilism” rather than retentionism or abolitionism. These three topics which I will consider roughly correspond to three basic modal concepts, namely, “actuality”, “possibility”, and “necessity (i.e. normativity)” respectively, so I have called these lectures “Modes of Responsibility”.

Abstract Lecture 1 - 16th November 2010

Who is a victim of homicide?

In this lecture I will discuss the question of an ontological status of a victim of homicide in order to clarify the significance of homicide in contexts of legal and moral philosophies. The starting point is in that the victim must be understood as a non-existence by definition. Does that victim suffer harm? If we answer yes as we usually suppose, we should face a traditional view of death proposed by Epicurus, which I will call ‘the harmlessness theory of death.’ I will tackle this problem by considering causal influence brought about by what the victim left before their death. I will also mention the issue of posthumous predications, suggesting proper semantics for that through the argument on the causal influence of the victim.

Abstract Lecture 2 - 22nd November 2010

Freedom, Responsibility, and Natural Phenomena

In this lecture I will examine an aspect of the traditional problem of freedom and responsibility by taking a biological point of view into account, in order to aim at clarifying criminal responsibility. First, I will raise two of my strategies in confronting the issue of freedom and responsibility, namely, making the distinction of tenses and introducing the notion of degrees. Then, I will examine two proposals concerning freedom and responsibility from viewpoints of life science, i.e. Libet’s experiments and criminal genes. Finally, I will try to apply my strategies to those proposals. What I want to highlight is how intrinsically uncertain criminal responsibility is.

Abstract Lecture 3 - 25th November 2010

Death Penalty and Human Rights

In this lecture I will take a historical approach to investigate the issue of the death penalty. Namely, I will examine John Locke’s theory of property rights, i.e. the labour theory of property, on the basis of which I will discuss the justifiability and possibility of the death penalty. The crucial question is whether our lives themselves could be categorized as an object of our property rights or not. Arguing this question, I will propose my view, which might be called ‘impossibilism’ on the death penalty rather than retentionism or abolitionism. The impossibilism is a hypothetical or conditional view presupposing the theory of human rights. Thus, I will finally scrutinize how to estimate the theory of human rights in general.


Professor at The University of Tokyo. His main research interests are causation, probability, and the concept of person. Publications include in 1997, ‘The Rise of Person-Knowledge Theory: The Moment of John Locke’ published by The University of Tokyo Press (in Japanese) and in 2001, The Labyrinth of Cause and Effect’ published by Keiso publishing company (in Japanese) and in 2006, ‘The Labyrinth of Cause and Reason: The Philosophy of "Because"’ published by Keiso publishing company (in Japanese). In 1998 he won the Watsuji Tetsuro Prize of Culture and the Nakamura Hajime Prize. An example of his publications in English can be downloaded from here.


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