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Gideon Yaffe
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Gideon Yaffe

Yale University

Fellowship year

2024 - Yale University - Study 53

Gideon Yaffe’s year at CASBS will be spent working on two projects.  The first concerns the standards of proof for criminal exculpation, especially in situations of evidential uncertainty.  If we know the defendant suffered from a brain injury which either diminished their responsibility, or aggravated it, but we do not know which, is the appropriate punishment less severe than normal, more severe, or neither?  The second concerns the elusive concept of meaningfulness in life. Under what conditions does a bad event nonetheless add to the meaningfulness of the life of which it is a part?  The project will explore how a general answer to this question can both show us how an offender’s crime can be more meaningful thanks to the punishment they receive and also how alternatives to punishment can play the same role in making the offense meaningful.

Yaffe is the Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School.  His work concerns issues at the overlap between philosophy of mind and action, on the one hand, and the criminal law, on the other.  His most recent book argued that we are justified in adopting a policy of comparative leniency towards children who have committed crimes thanks to their diminished political standing, rather than their psychological or neural immaturity.