Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Defence of Punishment and the Unified Theory of Punishment: A Reply

. . . can be found here at SSRN to download. The abstract:

Punishment is a major contribution to contemporary debates concerning the philosophy of punishment. The book advances three overlapping aims. The first is to provide the most comprehensive coverage of this fast moving field. While there are several excellent introductions available, they have become dated without substantive coverage of recent work on communicative theories of punishment or restorative justice, for example. A second aim of the book is to advance a new theory—the ‘unified theory’ of punishment—as a distinctive and compelling alternative to existing approaches. The third and final aim is to consider the relation of theory to practice in order to highlight the conceptual as well as more practical challenges each penal theory faces.

Mark Tunick raises several concerns with my analysis in Punishment. While noting is ‘in many respects an engaging work’, Tunick expresses reservations about my treatment of several penal theories, especially retributivism. He is especially critical of my unified theory of punishment and he has doubts even of the possible coherence of such an account. These are important issues and I am delighted to have this opportunity to clarify my position. I will begin by addressing Tunick’s criticisms of my treatment of some penal theories in general before turning to the central issue about the plausibility—even possibility—of a unified theory of punishment. Much of the concerns raised appear to rest on misinterpretations of my arguments, a problem that I have encountered before from Tunick in his review of my previous book which I also address.

The piece is forthcoming at Criminal Law and Philosophy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

University & College Union members vote to strike

The University & College Union (UCU) are in a trade dispute with employers concerning changes to the USS pension plan. The results of a ballot of UCU members:

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?

    Number of ballot papers counted: 17,212
    Number voting YES: 13,395 (77.8%)
    Number voting NO: 3,817 (22.2%)

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of a strike?

    Number of ballot papers counted: 17,154
    Number voting YES: 14,879 (86.7%)
    Number voting NO: 2,275 (13.3%)

The turn-out was about 45%.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Announcement: Cultural Heritage Ethics

An announcement I received and wanted to share:
Cultural Heritage Ethics is an intra-disciplinary book that bridges the gap between theory and practice by bringing together a stellar cast of academics, activists, consultants, journalists, lawyers, and museum practitioners, each contributing their own expertise to the wider debate of what cultural heritage means in the twenty-first century. The volume feels the pulse of the debate on heritage ethics by discussing timely issues such as access, acquisition, archaeological practice, curatorship, education, ethnology, historiography, integrity, legislation, memory, museum management, ownership, preservation, protection, public trust, restitution, human rights, stewardship, and tourism.

This volume is neither a textbook nor a manifesto for any particular approach to heritage ethics, but a snapshot of different positions and approaches that will inspire both thought and action.

Cultural Heritage Ethics provides invaluable reading for students and teachers of philosophy of archaeology, history and moral philosophy – and for anyone interested in the theory and practice of cultural preservation.


Cultural Heritage Ethics was published on 15th October 2014 and can be read for free online at where it is also available in inexpensive e-book, paperback and hardback editions.


Open Book Publishers is a non-profit organization, run by academics in Cambridge and London. We are committed to making high-quality research freely available to readers around the world. We rely on our friends and colleagues to assist in spreading the word about our books, and we thank you for your support.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Talking about asylum seekers, Middlesbrough and why the government should bring back the Migrant Impact Fund it scrapped

... can be heard here on BBC Radio Tees (from 2.07).

FACT: The current government has declined each and every opportunity to discuss immigration policy with me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October 14 is a great day

...because it is my birthday! On this date:

 *1066 - William the Conqueror wins the Battle of Hastings
*1322 - Robert the Bruce of Scotland defeats King Edward II of England, forcing recognition of Scotland's independence
* 1582 - This day did not exist this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal, or Spain because of implementation of the Gregorian calendar
* 1789 - George Washington proclaims the first Thanksgiving Day(!)* 1806 - The Battle of Jena: France defeats Prussia --- and an important event for young Hegel
*1843 - The British arrest Daniel O'Connell for conspiracy
*1912 - Teddy Roosevelt shot by an assassin while campaigning in Milwaukee. He continued to deliver his speech...with the bullet still lodged in him
*1926 - A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh is published for the first time
*1933 - Nazi Germany withdraws from the League of Nations
*1947 - Chuck Yeager is the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound
1956 - Dr B R Ambedkar converts to Buddhism - along with 385,000 of his followers
 *1962 - the Cuban Missile Crisis begins
* 1963 - the first time a newspaper uses the term "Beatlemania"
* 1964 - Martin Luther King is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
* 1969 - Britain introduces the 50 pence coin, replacing the ten shilling note
* 1979 - the first Gay Rights March on Washington, DC
* 1982 - Ronald Reagan declares a 'War on Drugs'
* 1994 - Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres receive the Nobel Peace Prize

There are also several famous people who share my birthday, including:
Akbar (1582)
James II of England and VII of Scotland (1633)
William Penn (1644)
Eamon de Valera (1882)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890)
E. E. Cummings (1894)
Hannah Arendt (1906)
C. Everett Koop (1916)
Roger Moore (1927)
Ralph Lauren (1939)
Cliff Richard (1940)
Thomas Dolby (1958)
Steve Coogan (1965)

Famous deaths on this day include Harold Godwinson (1066, King of England), Errol Flynn (1959), Bing Crosby (1977) and Leonard Bernstein (1990).

October 14th is World Standards Day, World Organ Donation Day(?!), and Teacher's Day in Poland.

Monday, October 13, 2014

See no EVEL - On English devolution

. . . is my most recent piece for Progress Online, a Labour Party group. Direct link here.

An interview with me on how restorative justice can and should be reformed

. . . can be found at the Howard League for Penal Reform's website (from 1 min 30 secs). This is part of their What is Justice? series - and there are some fantastic clips.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Remove international students from immigration targets, says Durham lecturer

. . . is the headline for this online post from The Bubble, an online magazine based in Durham. The "Durham lecturer" interviewed is yours truly.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Prof Thom Brooks - Inaugural Lecture on "Why Hegel Matters"

My Inaugural Lecture on Why Hegel Matters takes places next week on Thursday, 16 October 2014 at University College, Durham (known locally as Durham Castle) from 8.00-9.00pm in the Senate Suite.

A brief blurb:

G. W. F. Hegel is a 19th Century philosopher widely held to be one of the most important and obscure in the canon. In his Inaugural Lecture, Professor Thom Brooks addresses why Hegel’s philosophical insights should have importance for us today in thinking about ethics, law and public policy.
Thom Brooks is Professor of Law and Government at Durham University’s Law School, Director of the Centre for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice and an Associate member of the Philosophy Department. His books include Punishment (2012), Hegel’s Political Philosophy (2007, 2d 2013) and he co-edited Rawls’s Political Liberalism with Martha C. Nussbaum. Brooks is well known for his work in criminal justice - his ‘unified theory of punishment’ is identified by RCUK as one of the Top 100 Big Ideas for the Future (2009) – and immigration, publishing the only comprehensive report on the UK citizenship test which has been cited in several Parliamentary debates. Brooks is the 2014 ‘Lecturer of the Year’ for his Faculty.

Please register your attendance in advance of the event.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Many thanks to RIPPLE at KU Leuven

Many thanks to the fabulous political philosophers at RIPPLE (Research in Political Philosophy Leuven) -- possibly the largest group of political philosophers I've seen outside Oxford. (And this says much about how extraordinary - and wonderful - this group is.) The discussion was terrific with excellent questions from beginning to end and a highly enjoyable visit.

I am especially grateful to a former student of mine now PhD student at KU Leuven, Michael Jewkes, for the invitation to take part in Ripple's seminar series.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

English devolution opens a Pandora's Box

. . . or so I argue in today's the Journal available online here (and in the print edition pages 4-5).

Durham University's Law School ranked 3rd best in the UK

. . . in the University Guide published this past weekend by the Times and can be found here. Cambridge is ranked 1st and Oxford is 2nd.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Many thanks to the Hegel Society of Great Britain

. . . for the invitation to speak at its conference on "Hegel's Political Philosophy" held at the University of Cambridge last Thursday and Friday. Stimulating papers, terrific discussion and fabulous scholars made for a highly enjoyable time - and hope my powerpoint presentation (the first at a HSGB conference) is not its last...

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Criminal Justice at a Crossroads: Why Victims Should Have a Say

. . . is my latest piece for Political Insight. Abstract is:

"Public satisfaction with the criminal justice system is plummeting. What can policymakers do? Thom Brooks argues that restorative justice could provide an alternative to the traditional courtroom that would restore public confidence, reduce reoffending and even save money."

Monday, September 01, 2014

One Nation Labour can deliver the Britain we deserve

. . . is the title of my latest piece for Progress, the New Labour pressure group for progressive politics. The piece can be read here - an excerpt:

"One Nation Labour is about building a more equal and fair Britain where all share in prosperity. This powerful vision rejects the ‘divide and rule’ politics that define the Tory party. The Tories have a habit of rewarding favoured special interests above the public interest. One Nation Labour aims to correct this imbalance so that all can benefit, not only a chosen few. We can fight back even more effectively against Tory critics by viewing One Nation Labour through the politics of hope it can deliver. It can deliver the Britain we deserve [. . .]"

Read more

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Brooks Blog reaches 500,000 page views

. . . and 505,397 to be exact with over 450,000 visitors since I launched this blog June 15, 2006. The most read blogposts are:

1. "We are sorry for any inconvenience caused" (8 October 2010) - 23,179 views

2. "Journal rankings for philosophy" (29 September 2011) - 22,987 views

3. "The top philosophy journals: initial results" (18 January 2011) - 17,902 views

4. "Why publish journal articles?" (4 January 2011) -  6,670 views

5. "Hegel's philosophy attacked by Australia's opposition parties, or "The Politics of What?!" (6 September 2013) - 3,362 views

6. "Equality: the ticket to greater citations?" (2 January 2011) - 3,126 views

7. "Journal of Moral Philosophy joins Thomson Reuters ISI" (11 July 2011) - 2,676 views

8. "Senior academics threaten resignations over Big Society" (23 June 2011) - 1,848 views

9. "Thom Brooks on 'Guidelines on How to Referee'" (2 December 2010) - 1,479 views

10. "The UK citizenship test is 'unfit for purpose': news round-up" (18 March 2013) - 1,300 views

Clearly, my blog has become a central focal point for debates concerning academic journal rankings. I have a strong interest in these discussions given my founding the Journal of Moral Philosophy and I became increasingly alarmed at how many developments worldwide were taking place without full consultation with journal editors and their readers. This led me to re-launch with Carol Gould the Association of Philosophy Journal Editors to bring together philosophy journal editors to share ideas about best practice and the promoting our profession. I know my ranking of philosophy journals has been used by departments in North America and Europe -- and I am tempted to start a new discussion about what these rankings should look like now...

This list also contains some surprises. While my guidelines piece has been well received, I would have thought my piece on publishing advice - which I'm perhaps known for even  more and ranks in the top 100 most downloaded SSRN papers all-time - would have made my top 10 blogposts. A second surprise is my news round-up capturing initial media interest in my work on reforming the UK citizenship test makes the top 10, but not a post covering the much wider coverage - in 300+ media outlets - my report on the test received later that spring.

Of course, the biggest surprise of all is that my blog has continued to be received so well for so long. Much of the credit - as always! - must go to my old friend Brian Leiter for his warm support since day one. Much more credit must go to you, my reader, for taking the time to visit these pages. I am extremely grateful - and hope I can provide much of continuing interest in the days, weeks, months and even years ahead!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Join Progress

Go on. Join Progress, the New Labour pressure group promoting progressive politics in the UK. Tell them I sent you.