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Philosophical Criminology

British criminologist David Downes once famously claimed that criminology is a rendezvous discipline, that it is a meeting place for ideas from a range of disciplines as applied to the problem of crime. Jock Young took this idea further by claiming that:

“[Criminology] is a subject where other disciplines meet and its very liveliness and, at its best, intellectual interest is because of its position on the busy crossroads of sociology, psychology, law and philosophy”

(2003: 97)

Other disciplines can be added to Young’s list including, for instance, geography, economics, politics, architecture, cultural studies, biology and even theology. For the past few years one of Professor Andrew Millie’s interests has been the relevance of philosophy to criminology. He argues that, rather than being an esoteric concern, philosophy is essential to criminological understanding.

There will be criminologists who question the need for closer engagement with philosophy, but take a look at most undergraduate criminology textbooks and there is a great deal of philosophy. For instance, while it is often assumed that criminology originated in the 19th Century with the phrenology of Lombroso, textbook accounts also talk of an earlier ‘classical criminology’. The enlightenment scholars cited – usually Bentham and Beccaria, but also Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau – were all philosophers rather than criminologists. Contemporary criminologists often also cite 19th, 20th and 21st Century philosophy, ranging from Durkheim, Marx and Mills through to Foucault, Lacan and Žižek (and others). In fact, philosophers have for centuries been asking questions concerning how we get on with one another – and what happens when we do not – that have direct bearing on criminological concerns.

Professor Millie’s main philosophical interests are moral philosophy and aesthetics. One area has been the issue of respect (Millie, 2009) as related to concerns of anti-social behaviour and the political ‘respect agenda’ of the early 2000s. Millie has also considered value judgements as they apply to criminalization (Millie, 2011) and the relevance of aesthetics for behavioural acceptability (Millie, 2008; 2014). Professor Millie is currently working on a book entitled “Philosophical Criminology” to be published by Policy Press in 2016.

Professor Millie is supervising PhD research by Janice Adams on everyday morality and anti-social behaviour.

If you would like to learn more about this topic or are interested in doing a PhD in this area please contact Professor Andrew Millie.


  • Millie, A. (2016 forthcoming) Philosophical Criminology, Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Millie, A. (2014) ‘The aesthetics of anti-social behaviour’, in S. Pickard (ed.) Anti-Social Behaviour in Britain: Victorian and Contemporary Perspectives, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Millie, A. (2011) ‘Value judgments and criminalization’, British Journal of Criminology, 51(2) 278-295.
  • Millie, A. (2009) Securing Respect: Behavioural Expectations and Anti-Social Behaviour in the UK, Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Millie, A. (2008) ‘Anti-social behaviour, behavioural expectations and an urban aesthetic’, British Journal of Criminology, 48(3) 379-394.