Workshop "Reasonable Punishment? – The Influence of German Idealism on the Theory of Punishment"

Reasonable Punishment?

The Influence of German Idealism on the Theory of Punishment

Workshop (in German): October 26–28, 2023 | Freiburg, Germany • Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law


Despite the passage of two centuries, both historians of philosophy and legal scholars continue to grapple with the jus­ti­fications of crim­i­nal law and state punishment put forth by Kant, Fichte, and Hegel. These historical perspectives con­tinue to be of significance as they are often said to unveil core elements concerning the justification of punishment that hold true to this day. However, a fundamental question arises: to what extent are the “paradigmatic attributions” (e.g., Kant and Hegel as rep­re­sentatives of an absolute, Fichte of a relative theory of punishment) justified? Furthermore, the critical potential of these authors for con­tem­po­rary theories of punishment is disputed. While some scholars directly link their work to Kant, Fichte, or Hegel, striving to assert their continued influence on present-day discourse, others re­ject a direct invocation of these theorists, pointing to insur­mount­a­ble, metaphysically demanding presuppositions. This workshop, conducted in German, aims to confront these lingering unresolved concerns by bringing together philoso­phers and legal scholars working on fundamental questions. The goal is to reexamine the ongoing debate that has per­sisted in Ger­many since the late 18th century—namely, whether the justification for punishment should rest on retribu­tive or pre­ven­ta­tive grounds. Through this evaluation, the workshop will critically explore the potential that these historical authors can have upon contemporary theory of pun­ish­ment.


Thursday, October 26, 2023  
14:30Welcome and Introduction: Reasonable Punishment
14:45–16:15Dieter Hüning (Trier)
„daß das Strafen an und für sich gerecht sei“ (Rph § 99 Anm.) – Vernunft und Unvernunft der Hegelschen Strafrechtstheorie

Martin Brecher (Mannheim)
Vernunft und Vergeltung: Kants Theorie der Strafe
16:15–17:00– Coffee break –
17:00–18:30Michael Nance (Baltimore)
Fichte’s Voluntarist Theory of Punishment

Michelle Kosch (Ithaca)
Fichte on Punishment and Conditions of Possibility of Citizenship
Friday, October 27, 2023  
09:30–11:00Franziska Dübgen (Münster)
Idealistische Straftheorien im Spiegel ihrer Kritiker:innen

Jean-Christophe Merle (Vechta/Saarbrücken)
Das Böse und das Übel bei der Rechtfertigung der Strafe bei Kant, Fichte und Hegel
11:00–11:30– Coffee break –
11:30–13:00Antje du Bois-Pedain (Cambridge)
Verfassungschaos und Strafrechtsvernunft: Kann Fichtes philosophischer Ansatz das Strafrecht im Verfassungsstaat rechtfertigen?

Esther Neuhann (Berlin)
„Adding Insult to Injury“: Fichte über Sexualstraftaten
13:00–14:30– Lunch break –
14:30–16:00Thomas Meyer (Berlin)
Strafrecht als ‚Dasein des freien Willens‘ und Willensfreiheit als Bedingung für das Strafrecht

Benno Zabel (Frankfurt am Main)
Vernunft und Verletzlichkeit – Zur Theorie der Zwangsbefugnis bei Hegel und in der liberalen Strafrechtstheorie
16:00–16:45– Coffee break –
16:45–18:15Jochen Bung (Hamburg)
Wie absolut ist die Straftheorie Hegels?

Kristina Peters (Munich)
Wie aktuell ist Hegels Straftheorie?
Saturday, October 28, 2023  
09:30–11:00Katja Stoppenbrink (Munich)
Kants Straftheorie systematisch betrachtet: Vom Inselbeispiel zur Vereinigungstheorie?

Philipp Hirsch (Freiburg)
Strafe als Forderung der öffentlichen Gerechtigkeit: Immanuel Kant im Gespräch mit Günther Jakobs und Klaus Günther
11:00–11:45– Coffee break –
11:45–13:15Luna Rösinger (Bonn)
Die Bedeutung einer Rechtsbegründung aus Freiheit für das Strafrecht – am Beispiel der Wolff-Schule

Markus Abraham (Hamburg/Freiburg)
Drei Argumente des Idealismus zur Strafe, die im Kern vernünftig scheinen

About us

The workshop is organized by Dr. Dr. Philipp-Alexander Hirsch, Dr. Markus Abraham, and Dr. Martin Brecher.

Markus Abraham is a research associate at the Chair of Criminal Law and Legal Philosophy (Prof. Dr. Jochen Bung) at the University of Hamburg. He conducts research on criminal law and criminal pro­ce­dure as well as their philosophical foundations.

Martin Brecher is an academic associate at the Chair of Philosophy II at the University of Mannheim. His research focuses on Immanuel Kant’s philosophy as well as on the moral, legal, and political philos­o­phy of the modern era, especially on the natural law of the Age of Enlightenment.

Philipp-Alexander Hirsch is Leader of the Independent Research Group “Criminal Law Theory” at the Max Planck Insti­tute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law in Freiburg. 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.

The Max Planck Research Group “Criminal Law Theory” focuses on the analysis of substantive crim­i­nal law and crim­i­nal pro­cedure and the doctrine in these areas; the analysis centers on the underlying normative structures and prin­ci­ples in order to assess their coherence, justifiability, and persuasiveness. The aim is to draw on the fruits of this analysis to engage in normative theory-building that proposes solutions to problems in criminal law that go beyond interpreting the positive law.

Short Summary and Picture Gallery

The workshop, which took place at the end of October 2023 at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law in Freiburg i. Br., brought together philosophers and legal scholars to discuss the content and potential of Kant's, Hegel's and Fichte's theories of punishment. In addition to the different reasoning approaches of the thinkers of German idealism, it was discussed in particular whether their positions still have an impact on the theory of punishment today and to what extent they can benefit the discourse on the theory of punishment. Stimulating discussions accom­pa­nied the lectures, which will also be published in written form in a workshop volume.

Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"
Workshop "Reasonable Punishment?"

Photos: © MPI-CSL

Workshop Report (JuristenZeitung)

The detailed workshop report (in German), written by Andrés Payer, Patrick Joseph Siegle and Valerij Zisman, has been published in the JuristenZeitung:

Payer, A., Siegle, P. J., & Zisman, V. (2024). Vernünftiges Strafen? Die Gegenwart des Deutschen Idealismus in der Straftheorie. Juristenzeitung, 79(12), 554–556. doi:10.1628/jz-2024-0162
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