Law, human rights, legal protection, equality, etc.— these are some of the terms we hear when people speak about justice. And rightly so, since by recognizing the authority of law and rights we both assert our own significance and recognize the significance of others. But law is only one ingredient of justice, and on its own is incapable of producing just personal, social, and political relationships. What law can never completely do justice to is, first, our singularity or uniqueness, and second, our status as belonging to communities that define us in certain ways.
Over the last several years I have thought about the nature, necessity, and inadequacy of law with regard to justice. Working from this theme I have engaged with various issues, such as the limits of the liberal political framework; the significance of various forms of cultural, religious, and familial identification to human agency and responsibility; the connection between the undecidability of justice and the exercise of responsibility; and the significance of forgiveness to the restoration of viable social relations. I've thought about the nature of the human beings that law purportedly protects: that they are not universal but singular creatures, and they act out of limited knowledge and perspectives, required to bring their singularity to bear upon the laws and the traditions they would uphold if they are concerned about justice and about faithfulness. My interest in law and forgiveness thus leads me also to an interest in the possibility of loving, responsible, and just action in the face of others, one's personal and social communities, and one's tradition. These issues are discussed in my inaugural address, which can be read here.
I have recently published a book on these issues, called The Laws of the Spirit: A Hegelian Theory of Justice. Since then I have been developing new projects, involving Locke and the historical roots of liberalism, Derrida and feminist political practice, Heidegger and the nature of human existence, Reformational philosophy's analysis of the religious roots of theoretical thought, and ancient Greek philosophy.
My Research Foci
Shannon Hoff, PhD
Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy
BA (Calvin College), PhD (Stony Brook University)
Shannon Hoff is Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies, and President of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy. In 2013 she was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin, Germany. She is the author of The Laws of the Spirit: A Hegelian Theory of Justice, forthcoming in April with SUNY Press, as well as of numerous articles in political and European philosophy.