Saturday 1 January 2022

Love in Dark Places: You shall love your crooked neighbour / With your crooked heart (Auden). Derek Jeffreys conducts Inner Circle Seminar 273 (13 February 2022)

Love in Dark Places

Working with prisoners who will never be released
Seifert’s critique of Hildebrand’s phenomenology of Heart 

‘You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’
(W. H. Auden)

Derek Jeffreys
conducts by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminar No. 273
introduced by
Anthony Stadlen

Sunday 13 February 2022
2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  6 p.m. to 9 p.m.  London time

Derek S. Jeffreys

In this seminar Professor Derek S. Jeffreys will discuss his project of loving, as his neighbours, his fellow human beings, prisoners who will never be released, whose crimes he regards as utterly evil. This is no sentimental notion of ‘love’, but a clearsighted radical attempt to love perpetrators of radical evil, without denying or colluding with the evil they have done. Professor Jeffreys  is a distinguished teacher of the philosophy of, among other thinkers, Dietrich von Hildebrand, great phenomenological philosopher of love; favourite pupil, with Martin Heidegger, of Edmund Husserl, who was disappointed that both rejected his later phenomenology; friend and colleague of Max Scheler, whom he made it his business to rescue from disaster after Scheler's sexual escapades. Derek Jeffreys finds Hildebrand's philosophy of the Heart of great practical help in his approach to prisoners, especially when refined by Hildebrand's friend Joseph Seifert's critique of it.
Derek Jeffreys and Anthony Stadlen will also discuss the flattening of ethical sensibility by many psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychologists, whose ‘non-judgemental’ psychologism and denial of personal moral responsibility erodes the perception of good and evil, entails sentimental collusion, and precludes authentic love.
The discussion will start, but not end, with Derek Jeffreyss stark statement, in his book Spirituality in Dark Places: The Ethics of Solitary Confinement (2013):
Many inmates in solitary are not heinous or vicious, but such inmates do exist. They commit crimes that separate them from any community. Moreover they show no remorse and no interest in reconciliation. It seems remarkably naive to think we can communicate morally with them. Those promoting moral respect for all people seem to foster foolish convictions about human equality. Their ideas fall apart at the appearance of radical evil. Perhaps we should honestly admit that we can no longer associate with some people. 
Is this the last word? No; but it is the necessary absolute zero from which Derek Jeffreyss profound, positive thinking and clear-sighted engagement springs. At the end of this book he writes:
[...] we can use our creativity to acknowlege the dignity of even those who have committed horrific crimes. Despite political and economic forces, we can end a morally and spiritually bankrupt policy.
Your contribution to the discussion will be warmly welcomed.
Professor Jeffreys will structure the day as follows:
Session 1. (2 p.m. to 3.20 p.m.)
The credit of love: Freedom and gift in the human person
Session 2. (3.40 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
Life imprisonment: An American anomaly
Session 3. (6 p.m. to 7.20 p.m.)
Should we banish the wicked forever? Revisiting life imprisonment.
Session 4. (7.40 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
General discussion of love, ethics and imprisonment.
Derek S. Jeffreys is Professor of Humanities and Religion at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He teaches courses on love, Thomas Aquinas, ethics, ethics and punishment, evil, Dante, Buddhism, and other topics. For more than a decade he has been involved in jail and prison education, giving volunteer religion and philosophy lectures to inmates in Wisconsin’s jails and prisons. His research focusses on personalism and violence, with a particular emphasis on punishment and incarceration. He is author of Defending Human Dignity: John Paul II and Political Realism (2004), Spirituality and the Ethics of Torture (2009), Spirituality in Dark Places: The Ethics of Solitary Confinement (2013), and Americas Jails: The Search for Human Dignity in an Age of Mass Incarceration (2018). He is currently working on issues relating to love and mental illness in penal institutions.
See also:

This will be an online seminar, using Zoom.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £140, others £175, some bursaries; payable in advance by bank transfer or PayPal; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 7809 433250    E-mail:
For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

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