REACT (ANR-20-CE28-0012) is a research project about reactive practices — the practices in which we engage in the face of wrongness, such as punishment, blame, shame, and forgiveness. The project addresses theoretical, normative and empirical questions about these practices, with a specific focus on the normative distortions associated with discrimination. Its aim is to spell out how reactive practices shape our individual and collective agency.


The notion of “reactive practices” is designed to vindicate the social, practical and institutional dimensions of our attributions and distributions of responsibility. What does it mean to blame, to resent, or to forgive someone? How are these practices connected to autonomous agency, mutual respect, inclusion, and individual and collective empowerment? How do they affect the politically oppressed, the socially disadvantaged and the clinically impaired? How can we detect and counter unfair and inappropriate practices and nurture more constructive ones?

A first, applied branch focuses on reactive practices in the context of crime and punishment. It involves interactions of our team with magistrates and judicial training professionals. The philosophy of criminal law has often simply explored the legal expression of our reactive attitudes — as in the standard expressive theories of punishment. REACT, instead, will bring to our attention the relationship between our punitive practices and our non-punitive, yet crime-related, reactive practices. How can we draw a conceptual line between these families of practices? For instance, is “shaming” a form of punishment? What are the merits of non-punitive crime-related practices? How does this shed light on how our societies should treat criminal cases involving addiction? How are notions of moral responsibility, liability, and accountability articulated in our reactive practices? How could our framework inform policies aiming at preventing recidivism?

A second, applied branch is a study of addiction in light of our reactive practices around it. A key challenge in the descriptive and normative efforts around addiction pertains to the moral responsibility and the voluntary control of actions. This, in turn, feeds in the social and judicial challenges around our backward-looking reactive practices towards addicts — e.g. blaming, shaming, stigmatising and sanctioning. Our aim is to clarify how different beliefs about responsibility are connected to different descriptive models of addiction. Our tests should show which models can eventually support non-stigmatising, forward-looking reactive practices towards persons deemed to be addicts. Overall, the ambition is to offer a framework to revise our practices towards addicts, in ways that engage, support and eventually restore their agency — helping their recovery, rehabilitation and reinsertion in the social landscape.

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