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Apologies can be profoundly meaningful, yet many gestures of contrition - especially those in legal contexts - appear hollow and even deceptive. Discussing numerous examples from ancient and recent history, I Was Wrong argues that we suffer from considerable confusion about the moral meanings and social functions of these complex interactions. Rather than asking whether a speech act 'is or is not' an apology, Smith offers a highly nuanced theory of apologetic meaning. Smith leads us though a series of rich philosophical and interdisciplinary questions, explaining how apologies have evolved from a confluence of diverse cultural and religious practices that do not translate easily into secular discourse or gender stereotypes. After classifying several varieties of apologies between individuals, Smith turns to apologies from collectives. Although apologies from corporations, governments, and other groups can be quite meaningful in certain respects, we should be suspicious of those that supplant apologies from individual wrongdoers.
Nick Smith is currently a philosophy professor at the University of New Hampshire. He graduated from Vassar College in 1994, earned a law degree from SUNY Buffalo in 1997, and went on to complete a Ph.D. in philosophy from Vanderbilt in 2002. He made a living as an attorney before coming to UNH, working as a litigator for a major corporate law firm based in Manhattan. He also held positions as a judicial clerk for the Honorable R. L. Nygaard of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in-house counsel for a New England medical technology corporation, a clerk for a New York State Department of Human Rights judge, and an intern at two public defenders' offices. He specialises in the philosophy of law, politics, and society, particularly as considered through contemporary continental philosophy. He also writes on and teaches aesthetics. He is currently working on the sequel to The Categorical Apology. This next book, also with Cambridge University Press, applies his framework for the various kinds of meanings conveyed by apologies to examples in criminal and civil law. His writings have appeared in journals such as Continental Philosophy Review, Social Theory and Practice, The Journal of Social Philosophy, Culture, Theory and Critique, The Rutgers Law Journal, and The Buffalo Law Review.