Prof. Alan Norrie is Professor at the School of Law at the University of Warwick. He taught previously at the Universities of Dundee, Warwick and London. He was Edmund-Davies Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at King's College London (1997-2009) and held the Drapers' Chair in Law at Queen Mary and Westfield College (1994-7). He returned to Warwick in 2009. His books include Law, Ideology and Punishment (Kluwer, 1991), Punishment, Responsibility and Justice (OUP, 2000), Crime, Reason and History (CUP, 2001), Law and the Beautiful Soul (Routledge, 2005), and Dialectic and Difference (Routledge, 2010). Law and the Beautiful Soul won the Hart/SLSA Book Prize (2006) and was described as 'an important book which crosses a breathtakingly diverse terrain ... a beautifully written book, which ... demonstrates the author's own journey'. He has edited a number of books, King's Law Journal and Social and Legal Studies, and serves on several editorial boards. He is the President of the International Association for Critical Realism.


This paper looks back to work done over the last few years and forward to a new project on ‘Criminal Justice and the Blaming Relation’.  In an earlier paper entitled ‘Justice and the Slaughter Bench’, I considered Hannah Arendt’s argument that the crimes of the Nazis exploded the limits of law and left it impossible to rest punishment on the guilt of a perpetrator such as Eichmann. To her argument, I opposed the fourfold account of guilt to be found in Karl Jaspers’s essay on German war guilt.

Of the four kinds of guilt, political, legal, moral and metaphysical, I focused on the level of metaphysical guilt, which seemed to have the ontological depth to avoid the problems encountered both by Arendt and in the other guilt categories in Jaspers’s typology. Metaphysical guilt linked to Jaspers’s discussion of collective guilt, an idea that he found problematic but also impossible to discard. Another situation where metaphysical guilt revealed itself was with regard to ‘survivor guilt’, and I have been thinking about this as a ‘limit form’ of guilt: where one’s mere presence  at a crime generates a sense of guilt. What could this phenomenon tell us about guilt in general? I started thinking about survivor guilt as both a psychological and an ethical form, and this led me (back) to Primo Levi’s reflections in his book, The Drowned and the Saved.