I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies

I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies

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Apologies pervade our news headlines and our private affairs, but how should we evaluate these often vague and deceptive rituals? Discussing numerous examples from ancient and recent history, I Was Wrong: On The Meanings of Apologies argues that we suffer from considerable confusion about the moral meanings and social functions of these complex interactions. Rather than asking whether a speech act "is or is not" an apology, Smith offers a nuanced theory of apologetic meaning. Smith leads us with a clear voice though a series of rich philosophical and interdisciplinary questions, arguing that apologies have evolved from a confluence of diverse cultural and religious practices that do not translate easily into pluralistic secular discourse. After describing several varieties of apologies between individuals, Smith turns to collectives. Although apologies from corporations, governments, and other groups can be profoundly significant, Smith guides readers to appreciate the kinds of meaning that collective apologies often do not convey and warns of the dangers of collective acts of contrition that allow individual wrongdoers to obscure their personal blame. Dr. Smith is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of New Hampshire. A graduate of Vassar College, he earned a law degree from SUNY at Buffalo and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to UNH, he worked as a litigator for LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene, and MacRae and as a judicial clerk for the Honorable R.L. Nygaard of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He specializes in the philosophy of Law, Politics, and Society and he writes on and teaches aesthetics. He is working with Cambridge University Press on the sequel to I Was Wrong, applying his framework for apologetic meanings to examples in criminal and civil law. His writings have appeared in journals such as Continental Philosophy Review, Social Theory and Practice, The Journal of Social Philosophy, Culture, Theory & Critique, The Rutgers Law Journal, and The Buffalo Law Review.

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