17 November 2009

Justice & Mercy (2)

Just a few links to keep you amused this morning. Firstly, a brief return to the discourse surrounding the rights and wrongs of releasing Megrahi from prison.

One of the most interesting elements of that discourse, speaking as an academic(ish) person, was the way in which conceptual accounts of mercy and justice and their relationships with one another might entail a particularly conclusion or response from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice (and Mercy). The way these arguments emerged and why they were used as they were is a question of sociological interest. Equally, broader questions about the identity of mercy and the ways in which we might want to or perhaps ought to distinguish if from justice in our public life is a matter of considerable philosophical interest. I suggested at the time that there is an important difference between the two concepts - and that mercy tempering justice is a rhetorical model and a decision-making process apt to collapse merciful considerations into a discussion of justice from which it will be difficult to escape, once the conceptual collapse of one into the other has occurred.

Precisely because of the interest of these questions, I wanted to bring a couple of articles to your attention, inspired by the subject, inspired by the events - and engaging with some of the questions, issues and concerns I've outlined. Both can be found on the splendid CjS collating resource on Scottish criminal justice issues. The first, "Justice Mercy and Punishment" was published in September and was written by Professor Antony Duff, of the University of Stirling's Department of Philosophy. The piece is relatively short, so I won't bother condensing it. Professor Lindsay Farmer brings us an alternative perspective, and responds to Duff's arguments in his article, published in November, entitled "Mercy & Criminal Justice: A reply to Anthony Duff". Professor Farmer teaches in the University of Glasgow's School of Law. I'd encourage anyone with an interest in the place (if any) which conceptions of mercy ought to occupy in our public life to give both a read.

Secondly, while I suspect anyone who stumbles into and wades through my peat-hags here will already have gambolled across SNP Tactical Voting's demure Lothians slopes, lest a single soul be left out, I wanted to carry a link to the mad op-ed article published in the Jerusalem Post on why Israelis should vote Scottish Labour. Or more precisely, why "Israelis should hope that the Labour Party beats the SNP". With snappy headlines like that, heaven knows how the Sun can afford to let Rob Brown's pithy talent go unhired. As with previous posts from foreign press coverage of Wee Scotia and our flytes, this encounter confirms the pleasures of narcissism and the piquancy of reading (amazingly skewed) accounts of your own culture being presented to other people. On another level, however, it is also totally outrageous, shot through with slurs and imputations which would be impossible to justify and generalisations which shamefully insult the intelligence of the populace.

Just the stuff to baptise the day, on a cold and windy Tuesday morn.

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