Dr. iur. Dr. phil. Philipp-Alexander Hirsch

Research Group Leader
Criminal Law
Independent Research Group Criminal Law Theory
+49 761 7081-272

Philipp-Alexander Hirsch is a legal scholar and philosopher. He has been Leader of an Independent Research Group on criminal-law theory at the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg since 2022, having studied and obtained doctorates in law and philosophy before taking up this role. He has studied at the University of Göttingen, the University of Vienna, and the University of Toronto. In addition, he is complet­ing his habilitation in criminal law at the University of Göttingen, where he is also a lecturer in the Department of Philos­o­phy. His research focuses on criminal law and criminal procedure, legal philosophy and legal theory, and the history and phi­los­o­phy of criminal law in the Age of Enlightenment.

Main Focus

In his research, Philipp-Alexander Hirsch is particularly interested in the foundations of crim­i­nal law. One focus is crim­i­nal-law theory, understood as an analysis of criminal law and its doctrine that centers on the underlying normative struc­tures and principles in order to assess their coherence, justifiability , and persuasiveness. In addition, his research is con­cerned with doctrinal and methodological questions as well as the intellectual history and philosophical aspects of criminal law. Current topics of his research are:

  • The status of the victim in substantive criminal law and criminal proceedings
  • Theory of rights
  • Questions of imputation
  • Theories of criminalization
  • Theories of punishment
  • Development of criminal law in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
  • Comparison of legal theories (especially between German and Anglo-American legal systems)

Curriculum Vitae

  • Since 2022: Leader of an Independent Research Group on criminal-law theory
    Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law, Freiburg i.Br.
  • 2018–2022: Research Associate and, subsequently, Assistant Professor (akademischer Rat)
    Institute of Criminal Law and Justice at the University of Göttingen (Prof. Dr. Uwe Murmann, Chair of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law)
  • 2017–2020: Doctor of Laws (Doktor der Rechte)
    University of Göttingen
    Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Uwe Murmann
    Awarded the Appelhagen-Stifterpreis of the Faculty of Law of the University of Göttingen for the best dissertation of the year 2020
  • 2015–2018: Legal clerkship (Referendariat)
    Higher Regional Court of Braunschweig with internships at, inter alia, the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the law firm Graf von Westphalen
  • 2011–2016: Doctorate in Philosophy
    University of Göttingen
    Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Bernd Ludwig and – during a research stay – Prof. Dr. Arthur Ripstein (University of Toronto )
    Funded by a doctoral scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation
  • 2006–2011: M.A., Philosophy
    University of Göttingen and University of Vienna
    Funded by a scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation
  • 2003–2010: Study of law (Studium der Rechtswissenschaften), First State Examination in Law
    University of Göttingen and University of Vienna
    Funded by a scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation
    Awarded second place among examinees in calendar year 2010 for performance on the First State Examination in Law of the state of Lower Saxony


Rights in Criminal Law

The aim of the project is to address the issue of rights in criminal law: Who holds and who should hold a right not to be wronged by others? And is it the violation of rights – rather than the causing of harm – that grounds a prima facie reason for criminalization? According to the standard view in criminal law, compliance with criminal-law du­ties… more

Ernst Ferdinand Klein. Philosopher, Criminal Law Scholar and Justice Reformer of the German Enlightenment

Ernst Ferdinand Klein is one of the most prominent figures of the late German Enlightenment. A philosopher, scholar of criminal law, and reformer of the judiciary, he not only played an influential role in shaping academic dis­course in these fields at the end of the 18th century. He also had a lasting impact on forming public opinion on the… more

Reasonable Punishment? The Presence of German Idealism in the Theory of Punishment

The aim of this interdisciplinary research project is to evaluate from today’s per­spective the dispute regarding whether punishment ought to be justified on retrib­u­tive or on preventive grounds – a dispute that has been on­go­ing in Ger­many since the end of the eighteenth century and whose most influential protagonists were Kant, Fichte, and… more

Relational Morality and the Criminal Law

The rise of second-personal or relational conceptions of morality has been one of the most significant devel­op­ments in contemporary ethics in the last 25 years. While many different theories are classified under this label, they generally agree that morality concerns ‘what we owe to each other’ (in Thomas Scanlon’s memorable phrase) and is… more

<em>Rücksichtslosigkeit</em>. Possibility, Potential, and Limits of a New Central Category between Intent and Negligence

In German criminal-law doctrine, deliberate high-risk behavior is strictly di­chot­o­mized as either intentional or neg­li­gent behavior. The border line runs between dolus eventualis (“conditional intent”) and bewusste Fahrlässigkeit (“conscious negligence”), although this is accompanied by problems with regard to proving intent in the trial and… more

Law and Morality in Kant

What is the relationship between law and morality? Does legal philosophy merely apply general moral principles to particular circumstances that give rise to the need for law and its institutions? Or does law have its own kind of normativity, which cannot be reduced to morality?
In current scholarship, Kant is often cited as holding the latter view… more

Committed to Non-Judgmental Science?
Current Justification and Significance of the Postulate of Non-Judgmental Science

Current Justification and Significance of the Postulate of Non-Judgmental Science more

A woodcut from 1508: A maid tries to get rid of her child. Picture: Die Welt der Schweizer Bildchroniken (The world of Swiss pictorial chronicles)

The treatment of infanticide in the Enlightenment discourse on criminal law policy and in the Prussian General Land Law more

Richard Martin Honig

Richard Martin Honig (1890–1981) is best known in German criminal law as one of the pioneers of the doctrine of objective imputation due to his ground-breaking contribution “Kausalität und objektive Zurechnung” (Causality and objective imputation) in the Festgabe für Frank (1930), which has since become commonplace in German criminal law doctrine… more

Anti-Impunity: Do Human Rights Give the Victim a Right to Punishment?

The project examines the human rights guarantees of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, and the fundamental rights of the German Grundgesetz as shaped by the respective case law to determine the extent to which they grant victims of crime subjective rights to punishment of the offender. The… more

Blame for Ignorance? Perspectives on Willful Blindness and Mistakes of Fact

Can a person be blamed for turning a blind eye to the circumstances of his or her conduct? From a criminal law perspective, the concept of “willful ignorance” (“willful blindness” or “conscious avoidance”) exists – in varying forms and terms – in different jurisdictions. It usually involves individuals deliberately ignoring or avoiding… more

Criminalising Carelessness. Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Criminal Liability for Inadvertent Negligence

Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Criminal Liability for Inadvertent Negligence more

Subjective Imputation and Lay Attribution of Criminal Responsibility and Blameworthiness for Deliberately Risky Behavior

Both the legal and the everyday attribution of responsibility are based on a rationalist, naive psychology that interprets human action as behaviour caused by epistemic and optative states. The different degrees of legal and everyday attributions of responsibility correspond to the possible combinations of different epistemic states (such as… more


Book (3)

Hirsch, P.-A. (2021). Das Verbrechen als Rechtsverletzung: subjektive Rechte im Strafrecht (Vol. Neue Folge, Band 299) Strafrechtliche Abhandlungen. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Hirsch, P.-A. (2017). Freiheit und Staatlichkeit bei Kant: die autonomietheoretische Begründung von Recht und Staat und das Widerstandsproblem (Vol. 194) Kant-Studien / Ergänzungshefte. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Hirsch, P.-A. (2012). Kants Einleitung in die Rechtslehre von 1784. Immanuel Kants Rechtsbegriff in den Vorlesungen „Moral-Mrongovius II“ und „Naturrecht-Feyerabend“ von 1784 und in der „Metaphysik der Sitten“ von 1797. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen. doi:10.17875/gup2012-459

Collected Edition (6)

Dölling, M., Hirsch, P.-A., & Rennicke, J. (Eds.). (2024). Richard Martin Honig: Prägender Göttinger (Straf-)Rechtswissenschaftler des 20. Jahrhunderts? (Vol. 45) Göttinger Studien zu den Kriminalwissenschaften. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen. doi:10.17875/gup2024-2527
Hirsch, P.-A., & Moser, E. (Eds.). (in press). Rights in Criminal Law. London: Hart Publishing.
Hirsch, P.-A., & Brecher, M. (Eds.). (in press). Law and Morality in Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Journal Article (16)

Hirsch, P.-A. (in press). Crimes as Status Violations. Criminal Law and Philosophy.
Hirsch, P.-A. (in press). Eine relationale Theorie vom Verbrechen? Zur Bedeutung relationaler Theorien der Verpflichtung für das Strafrecht. Goltdammer's Archiv für Strafrecht.
Hirsch, P.-A. (2023). Neu über Recht und Unrecht nachdenken: Nationalsozialistisches Strafrecht in der juristischen Ausbildung und die Novelle des § 5a DRiG. Nationalsozialistisches Strafrecht, 1–10.
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Contribution to a Collected edition (17)

Hirsch, P.-A. (2024). Sozial-ethische Pflichten und strafbares Unterlassen. Honig über Garantenpflichten und das Sittengesetz. In M. Dölling, P.-A. Hirsch, & J. Rennicke (Eds.), Richard Martin Honig: Prägender Göttinger (Straf-)Rechtswissenschaftler des 20. Jahrhunderts? (pp. 153–168). Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen. doi:10.17875/gup2024-2527
Hirsch, P.-A. (2024). »Wer nicht hören will, muss fühlen!« Strafschmerz bei Kant, oder: Die konsequente Denkungsart der Lehre vom höchsten Gut. In A. Hahmann & S. Klingner (Eds.), Konsequente Denkungsart. Studien zu einer philosophischen Tugend – Festschrift für Bernd Ludwig (pp. 254–275). Hamburg: Meiner.
Hirsch, P.-A. (in press). Legal Coercion as a Moral Problem? Kant on the Enforcement of Rights and the Limits of Moral Personality. In P.-A. Hirsch & M. Brecher (Eds.), Law and Morality in Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Issue (2)

Hirsch, P.-A. (Ed.). (2023). Nationalsozialistisches Strafrecht. Göttinger Rechtszeitschrift (Vol. 6).
Brecher, M., Hirsch, P.-A., & Klingner, S. (Eds.). (2020). Göttinger Naturrecht - 300 Jahre Gottfried Achenwall. Rechtsphilosophie (Vol. 6). doi:10.5771/2364-1355-2020-4

Other (1)

Hirsch, P.-A., Payer, A., Schwartz, S., & Weigel, J. S. (2024, June). Gedanken eines Täters: Wo beginnt strafrechtliche Verantwortung? Jahrbuch 2023 der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.

Book Review (2)

Hirsch, P.-A. (2020). Rezension zu: Luna Rösinger, Die Freiheit des Beschuldigten vom Zwang zur Selbstbelastung. Zeitschrift für Internationale Strafrechtsdogmatik.
Hirsch, P.-A. (2015). Rezension zu: B. Sharon Byrd und Joachim Hruschka, Kant’s Doctrine of Right. A Commentary. Kant-Studien. doi:10.1515/kant-2015-0029
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