Dr Ambrose Y. K. Lee
Academic and research departmentsSchool of Law.
Ambrose joined the School of Law in August 2017 after having been a Research Development Fellow at University of Derby. Prior to that he was a Postdoctoral Research Officer for the AHRC-funded Preventive Justice Project and then a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, both of which were based at the Centre for Criminology in the Faculty of Law at University of Oxford. He also briefly lectured on metaethics at the Division of Law and Philosophy at University of Stirling. Ambrose's research background was in political philosophy. His doctoral thesis was about duties of minimal wellbeing and their role in global justice. However, ever since he graduated from his doctoral studies, his research interests have gradually expanded to also include legal philosophy. Nowadays, Ambrose draws insights from political philosophy and researches on a variety of philosophical issues relating to criminalization and punishment.
Ambrose is a Research Fellow at the Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy. He is also an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Philosophical issues relating to criminal justice, especially in relation to punishment and criminalisation; criminal law theory; legal theory and legal philosophy; political and moral philosophy.
Previous research projects include Internal Constraints to Coercive Harm Prevention, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, and Preventive Justice, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Postgraduate research supervision
Theories of Punishment and Theories of Criminalization.
Criminal Law II, Jurisprudence, Legal Obligation and Punishment.
"Constitutive luck, Criminality, and Distributive Justice", Criminal Justice Theory Blog (March 2022)
Abstract: In this post, I want to explore how the presence of luck in one being the kind of person that one is affects the way we should think about criminal justice.
"Blameworthiness and the Outcomes of One's Actions", Criminal Law and Philosophy (Oct 2021).
Abstract: There are at least two ways to argue for the view that the outcome of one’s actions does not affect one’s blameworthiness. The first way appeals to the ‘Control Principle’ while the second way relies on what it means to be blameworthy. The focus of this paper is on a recent attempt at pursuing this second way that relies on an account of blameworthiness dubbed the ‘Engagement View’. This paper argues, however, that the Engagement View alone is insufficient to show why the outcomes of one’s actions does not affect one’s blameworthiness. It argues that if blame is understood more robustly as involving reactive attitudes like resentment and indignation, then it turns out the Engagement View can also give us reasons for the contrary view. This paper ends by drawing out some general implications that this has on our understanding of blameworthiness.
There are at least two ways to argue for the view that the outcome of one’s actions does not affect one’s blameworthiness. The first way appeals to the ‘Control Principle’ while the second way relies on what it means to be blameworthy. The focus of this paper is on a recent attempt at pursuing this second way that relies on an account of blameworthiness dubbed the ‘Engagement View’. This paper argues, however, that the Engagement View alone is insufficient to show why the outcomes of one’s actions does not affect one’s blameworthiness. It argues that if blame is understood more robustly as involving reactive attitudes like resentment and indignation, then it turns out the Engagement View can also give us reasons for the contrary view. This paper ends by drawing out some general implications that this has on our understanding of blameworthiness.
According to communicative theories of punishment, legal punishment is pro tanto justified because it communicates the censure that offenders deserve for their crimes. The aim of this article is to offer a modest defence for a particular version of a communicative theory. This version builds on the one that has been advanced by Antony Duff. According to him, legal punishment should be understood as a kind of (secular) penitential burden that is placed upon offenders to censure them for their crimes, with the aims that they will then come to repent, reform themselves and reconcile with those whom they have wronged. This article departs from Duff’s version, however, by arguing that the penitential burdens in question should be understood more specifically in terms of the amends that offenders ought to make to apologise for their criminal wrongdoings. The article then attempts to address three potential objections to this revised version of the communicative theory.
Legal coercion seems morally problematic because it is susceptible to the Hegelian objection that it fails to respect individuals in a way that is ‘due to them as men’. But in what sense does legal coercion fail to do so? And what are the grounds for this requirement to respect? This paper is an attempt to answer these questions. It argues that (a) legal coercion fails to respect individuals as reason-responsive agents; and (b) individuals ought to be respected as such in virtue of the fact that they are human beings. Thus it is in this sense that legal coercion fails to treat individuals with the kind of respect ‘due to them as men’.
This paper critically appraises the arguments that have been offered for what can be called ‘the expressive function of punishment’. According to this view, what distinguishes punishment from other kinds of non-punitive hard treatment is that punishment conveys a censorial/reprobative message about what the punished has done, and that this expressive function should therefore be accepted as part of the nature and definition of punishment. Against this view, this papers argues that the standard account of punishment, according to which punishment is a kind of hard treatment that is imposed on an alleged offender in response to her alleged wrongdoing, can already properly account for punishment and distinguish it from other kinds of hard treatment when it is properly clarified and understood. Thus there is no need to accept the expressive function of punishment in addition to the standard account when it comes to the nature and definition of punishment.
This article specifically argues against those who think that, by appealing to Thomas Hurka's argument for co-national obligations in his ‘The Justification of National Partiality’, these co-national obligations take priority over certain cosmopolitan obligations towards foreigners, when the shared history of the co-nationals is (a) a history of shared suffering, (b) a shared history of mutual benefit or (c) a shared history of jointly benefiting others. I shall argue that if this is the case, then Hurka's account surprisingly gives us a reason to fulfil our cosmopolitan obligations towards foreigners first before fulfilling our special obligations towards co-nationals.
Drawing on some of his previously published work, this book constitutes to date Bill Wringe’s most systematic and comprehensive attempt to develop and argue for what he refers to as a ‘denunciatory theory’ of punishment. Like most other expressive theories of punishment, Wringe’s denunciatory theory holds that (i) what distinguishes punishment from other kinds of harsh treatments is that it expresses certain messages of disapproval; and (ii) that it is in virtue of the kind of messages of disapproval it expresses that punishment is to be justified, at least in the pro tanto sense (p. 23). In particular, according to Wringe’s denunciatory theory, punishment is justifiable in virtue of it expressing a message of disapproval that ‘certain norms are in force and that transgressions against them are viewed seriously’ (p. 24), and this message is directed not just to the offender but also to the wider political community in which the offender is a member of (pp. 56-58). This contrasts with other expressive theories of punishment; for example Duff’s communicative theory, according to which the message of disapproval is directed primarily to the offender with the aim of inducing the offender to repent for his or her wrongdoing.
“Compared with the enormous amount of attention moral and legal philosophers have for centuries devoted to the justification of legal punishment itself… and more recently to questions of justified criminalisation, the permissibility of collateral consequences has received relatively little consideration. I suggest it is time for this to change” (p. 222). These last few sentences of this book summarise succinctly the aim, significance and force of the book. While significant work has been done in recent years by many sociologists, criminologists, activists, legal scholars and practitioners on the collateral consequences of criminal convictions (examples can be found in the footnotes on p. 6), much less work has been done on the more general philosophical question of whether the imposition of formal legal collateral consequences can be morally justifiable, and if so, under what conditions. As far as I know, this book is to date the most comprehensive and systematic attempt at tackling this philosophical question head on.
As a normative theorist working in a centre with a field of research that has such a strong empirical component, I am always confronted with the question of what role, if any, should ‘public opinion’ play in the kind of normative theoretical work that I do. Two contrasting positions usually present themselves here.
This paper is about how best to understand the notion of ‘public wrongs’ in the longstanding idea that crimes are public wrongs. By contrasting criminal law with the civil laws of torts and contracts, it argues that ‘public wrongs’ should not be understood merely as wrongs that properly concern the public, but more specifically as those which the state, as the public, ought to punish. It then briefly considers the implications that this has on criminalization.
With the humongous amount and variety of ethical cosmopolitan positions in the contemporary literature, Stan van Hooft’s Cosmopolitanism is a great introduction to those who would like to be acquainted with the position, as it argues for 21 essential features in ethical cosmopolitanism ((19-20); I shall not list them out here due to limited space). The area that is covered by this list is extremely extensive: partiality, universal human rights, what we owe to distant others, the self-determination of peoples and nation-states, just war theory, international relations, global governance, toleration etc.