Jonathan Jacobs

Jonathan Jacobs

Professor/Chair of Dept.of Philosophy/Director Inst of Criminal Justice Ethics
Phone number: 
Room number: 
NB 8.86.22



 BA - Wesleyan University, Philosophy and College of Social Studies, 1977 

Ph.D - University of Pennsylvania, Philosophy, 1983



Jonathan Jacobs joined the faculty in February 2011 as Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute of Criminal Justice Ethics. Prior to coming to John Jay he taught for over twenty years at Colgate University. He is the author of nine books, editor of three others, and has published over one hundred articles in several areas of philosophy, including Ethics, Philosophy of Law, Medieval Philosophy, Moral Psychology. and Criminal Justice. He has been a Visiting Professor or held fellowships at Oxford, Cambridge, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Edinburgh, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hebrew University, and the Social Philosophy & Policy Center at Bowling Green State University. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Earhart Foundation, and the Littauer Foundation, and he has directed an NEH Summer Seminar for faculty, and was a Fulbright Scholar in 2017 at the University of York, England. He is currently working on issues concerning the aims and justification of punishment in a liberal political order, and the relation between criminal justice and broader conceptions of justice. In much of his work the role of an agent’s states of character in ethical comprehension, reasoning, and motivation is one of his longstanding interests. He is Presidential Scholar in Philosophy at John Jay, and a member of the Doctoral Faculty of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center and a member of the Doctoral Faculty of Criminal Justice at the CUNY Graduate Center.



Books  [Articles are listed after books]

Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics (Routledge, 2016) Editor,with Jon Jackson of London School of Economics)

Reason, Religion, and Natural Law: Plato to Spinoza (Oxford University Press, 2012) A volume I conceived and proposed, and I am the Editor and a contributor.

Judaic Sources and Western Thought: Jerusalem’s Enduring Presence, (Oxford University Press 2011) A volume I conceived and proposed, and I am the Editor and a contributor.

Law, Reason, and Morality in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Ethics A-Z, (Edinburgh University Press, and Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

Aristotle’s Virtues: Nature, Knowledge, and Human Good, (Lang, 2004) in the Masterworks of the Western Tradition Series.

Dimensions of Moral Theory: An Introduction to Metaethics and Moral Psychology, Blackwell, (2002)

Choosing Character: Responsibility for Virtue and Vice, Cornell U. Press (2001)

A Philosopher's Compass, Wadsworth (2000)

Practical Realism and Moral Psychology, Georgetown U Press (1995)

Being True to the World, Lang (1990)

Vrtue and Self-Knowledge, Prentice Hall (1989)


Articles and Invited Chapters

“Natural Law and Philosophy of Religion,” in press in Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion, eds. Charles Taliaferro, Stewart Goetz, forthcoming.

“Natural Law and Judaism,” forthcoming in Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory, eds. Jonathan Crowe, Constance Lee, Edward Elgar Publisher, forthcoming

"Punitiveness: A Philosophical Perspective," in Criminal Justice Policy Review, February 2018

“Censure, Sanction, and the Moral Psychology of Resentment and Punitiveness” forthcoming in a volume on the 40th anniversary of Andre Von Hirsch’s Doing Justice. The new volume will be published by Hart Publishing, and edited by Anthony Bottoms and Antje duBois-Pedain

“Human, Nature, Gratitude, and Engagement With the Good” in Modeh Ani, edited by David Birnbaum, Martin S. Cohen, New York: New Paradigm Matrix, 2017. (This is a collection of papers on Modeh Ani, which is a short prayer of thanks said by observant Jews each morning upon waking, expressing thanks for reviving one’s spirit for the new day.)

“Civics, Policy, and Demoralization,” in Criminal Justice Ethics issue on Philosophy of Punishment East and West, April 2017

“Gratitude, Humility, and Holiness in Medieval Jewish Philosophy: A Rationalist Current,” in Holiness in Jewish Thought, ed. by Alan Mittleman, Oxford University Press, 2018.

“Saadia Gaon” in Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, Springer, 2017.

“The Nature and Justification of Repentance and Forgiveness,” in Jewish Philosophy Past and Present: Contemporary Responses to Classical Sources, ed. by D. Frank, A Segal, Routledge, 2016.

“Aristotelian Ethical Virtue: Naturalism Without Measure,” in Varieties of Virtue

Ethics, ed. David Carr, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

“Resentment, Punitiveness, and the Challenge of Forgiveness,” in The

Moral Psychology of Forgiveness, ed. Kathryn Norlock, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

“Vice, Practical Necessity, and Agential Self-Destruction,” in Here I Stand:

Practical Necessity and Moral Psychology, ed. Katharina Bauer, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2017.

“Resentment, Punitiveness, and Forgiveness: An Exploration of the Moral Psychology of Punishment,” in Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics, eds. Jonathan Jacobs, Jonathan Jackson, Abingdon: Routledge, 2016.

“Philosophical and Ethical Aspects of Police and Policing,” in SAGE Handbook of Global Policinged. by B. Bradford, I. Loader, B. Jauregui, J. Steinberg.

“From Bad to Worse: Crime, Incarceration, and the Self-Wounding of Society,” in Justice and Penal Reform: Re-Shaping the Penal Landscape, edited by Stephen Farrall, Barry Goldson, Ian Loader and Anita Dockley, Routledge, 2016.

“Human Nature, Gratitude, and Engagement With the Good,”in a volume in a series on Jewish Thought, to be published by New Paradigm Matrix, edited by Martin Cohen and David Birnbaum

“Character, Punishment, and the Liberal Order,” in From Personality to Virtue: Essays on the Philosophy of Character, Oxford University Press, edited by Jon Webber, Alberto Masala, 2016.

 “On Religious Pluralism and Values in the Public Sphere,” an invited essay in special Roundtable issue of the journal Political Theology, Vol. 16, Issue 6, November 2015, pp. 502-520.

 “Law and Government,” complete, forthcoming in Routledge Companion to Medieval Philosophy

“Moral Motivation in Medieval Philosophy,” in Oxford Philosophical Concepts Series University volume, Moral Motivation, ed. by Iakovos Vasiliou, 2016

“Retributivism,” a chapter in When Young People Break the Law: Debating Issues

on Punishment for Juveniles, published by the Open Society Institute, February 2015

“The Liberal Polity, Criminal Sanction, and Civil Society,” in Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 32, No. 3, December 2013, pp. 231-246.

"Acquiring Universal Values Through A Particular Tradition: A Perspective on Judaism and Modern Liberalism," in European Journal for the Philosophy of Religion, fall 2013, pp. 31-52.

 “The Fact/Value Distinction and the Social Sciences,” in Social Science and Modern SOCIETY, Sept/Oct 2013, Vol. 50, No. 5, pp. 560-570 (invited as part of a symposium)

“Reply to James Kellenberger’s “Why Human Relationships are Deeper Than Moral Principles,” invited by Theoretical and Applied Ethics,” Vol. 2 (1) fall 2013

“Ethical Issues Facing Judges,” in Law & Justice Review (a journal of the Academy of Justice in Turkey The paper is also being translated into Turkish.) Fall 2013

“Competing Conceptions of the Justification of Punishment,” in Human Rights Review (a journal of the Academy of Justice in Turkey The paper is also being translated into Turkish.) Fall 2013

“Retribution,” in Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice Ethics, SAGE Publishing, 2014, pp. 801-804.

“Virtue”, in Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice Ethics, SAGE Publishing, 2014, pp. 1001-1004.

“The Liberal Order, Civil Society and Skepticism About Public Reason: Remarks on Sen and Smith,” in Revista de Instituciones, Ideas y Mercados Journal of Institutions, Ideas, and Markets, in press (Spanish and English) 57, October 2012, pp. 27-56.

“Judaism, Natural Law, and Rational Tradition,” Journal of Comparative Law

“The Reasons of the Commandments: Rational Tradition Without Natural Law,” in Reason, Religion and Natural Law: Plato to Spinoza, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.106-132.

“Maimonides” article, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (17,000 words)

 “Tradition, Rationality, and Moral Life: Medieval Judaism’s Insight,” in Judaic Sources and Western Thought: Jerusalem’s Enduring Presence, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp 127-152.

“Reason, Will, and Human Action,” forthcoming in Blackwell History of Medieval Philosophy

“Forgiveness and Perfection,” in Ancient Forgiveness, edited by Charles Griswold and David Konstan, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 216-236.

“Criminal Justice and the Liberal Polity,” in Criminal Justice Ethics, August 2011

“The Humanities, Wisdom, Theory, and Specialization,” in special issue of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Vol II (3), 206-223 (I edited this issue.)

“Medieval Jewish Ethics” in Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, De Gruyter

 “The Epistemology of Moral Tradition: A Defense of a Maimonidean Thesis,” The Review of Metaphysics, 64 (1) September 2010, pp. 55-74.

 “Saadia Gaon,” article in Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, Springer, 2011, pp. 1171-1173.

“Torah and Political Power: Judaism and the Liberal Polity,” in Trumah, the annual periodical of the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg, Winter 2010, pp. 26-44.

“A Tradition to Reason With,” in Azure, No. 43, Winter 2011 (a quarterly journal published in both English and Hebrew editions, invited)

“Hume and Smith on the Moral Psychology of Market Relations, Practical Wisdom, and the Liberal Political Order,” in Reason Papers, Fall 2009 (invited)

 “Reasons, Commandments, and the Common Project,” in a special issue of Hebraic Political Studies, on ‘Athens and Jerusalem,’ Vol. 3, (3) 2008, pp. 290-307.

“The Odd Couple: Reflections on Liberal Education,” in Liberal Education (the Journal of the Association of American College and Universities), 94, (3) August 2008, pp. 50-55.

“The Humanities and the Recovery of the Real World,” Arts and Humanities in HigherEducation, Vol. 8, (1) February 2009, pp. 26-40.

 “Athens, Jerusalem, and Oxford,” in Annual Report of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 2008 (invited)

“Character, Liability, and Morally Unreachable Agents,” in Criminal Justice EthicsSummer/Fall (2007)

“Utilitarianism,” in Dialogue, November 2007 (invited) pp. 36-43.

“Judaism and Natural Law, in The Heythrop Journal, 50, (6) May 2009, pp. 930-947.  

“Aristotle and Maimonides on Virtue and Natural Law,” in Hebraic Political Studies, Spring 2007 Vol. 2., No. 1, pp. 46-77.

“Virtue-Centered Ethical Theory,” in Dialogue, April 2007 (invited) pp. 32-38.

“The Exercise of Liberty and the Moral Psychology of Justice” in Liberty and Justice, a volume from The Hoover Institution, July 2006 (invited) pp. 41-82.

“Return to the Sources: Political Hebraism and the Making of Modern Politics,” in Hebraic Political Studies, April, 2006, pp. 328-342.

“Sexuality and the Unity of the Virtues,” in Sex and Ethics: Essays on Sexuality, Virtue, and the Good Life, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 (invited) pp. 65-76.

“Retributivism and Public Norms” in St. Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2004, pp. 227-240.        

“Spirituality and Virtue” in Spirituality, Philosophy, and Education, edited by David Carr and John Haldane, Routledge/Falmer, 2003, pp. 55-66.

“Some Tensions Between Autonomy and Self-Governance,” in Social Philosophy and Policy, Summer 2003 and in Autonomy, edited by Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred D. Miller, Jr., and Jeffrey Paul, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 221-244.

“Metaethics and Teleology,”in The Review of Metaphysics, September, 2001.

“Naturalism,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Habits, Cognition and Realism,” in Mind. Metaphysics, and Value in the Thomistic and Analytical Traditions, ed. by John Haldane, University of Notre Dame Press, 2002, pp. 109-124.

“Theism, Blame and Perfection,” The Heythrop Journal, February 2000, pp. 141-153.

“Aristotle and Maimonides: The Ethics of Perfection and the Perfection of Ethics,” in Special Issue of American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly on Maimonides, Winter 2002, pp. 145-164.

 “Luck and Retribution,” in Philosophy, No. 74, October, 1999, pp. 535-555.

 “Three Kinds of Objectivity,” in Medieval Philosophy and the Classical Tradition in Islam,

Judaism, and Christianity, 2002, Curzon Publishing, pp. 217-230.

“Ethical Realism: Naturalistic and Practical,” Vera Lex, Vol. XV, 1995, pp. 32-36.     

“Taking Ethical Disability Seriously,” in Ratio, Vol. XI. No. 2, September, 1998, pp. 141-158.

“Form and Cognition:  How to Go Out of Your Mind,” Monist, Vol. 80, No. 4, October, 1997, pp. 539-557. (co-written with J. Zeis).

“Particularism, Pluralism, and Liberty,” in On Liberty: Jewish Philosophical Perspectives, ed. by Daniel H. Frank, 1999, Curzon Publishing, pp. 82-97.                                      

“Plasticity and Perfection:  Maimonides and Aristotle on Character,” Religious Studies, No. 33, December, 1997, pp. 443-454.

“Elements of a Naturalistic Realism in Ethics,” Explorations of Value, a volume of proceedings from 20th Conference on Value Inquiry, ed. by Thomas Magnell, Rodopi, 1997, pp. 129-140.

“Representation, Cognition, and Realism,” in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. X, No. 4, 1996, pp. 272-295.

“The Virtues of Externalism,” in The Southern Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XXXIV, No. 3, September, 1996, pp. 285-299.

“The Forms of Realism,” in Annual Proceedings of the ACPA, March, 1996, pp. 145-155.

“Why is Virtue Naturally Pleasing?” in The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. XLIX, No. 1, September, 1995, pp. 21-48.

“Values, Naturalism and Teaching the Nature of Values,” in Teaching Philosophy, Vol. 17, No. 1, Summer 1994, pp. 17-28.

“Theism and Moral Objectivity” in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, (formerly New Scholasticism), Vol. LXVI, No. 4, 1992, pp. 429-445.

“Friendship, Self-Love and Knowledge” in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, (formerly New Scholasticism), Vol. LXVI, No. 1, 1992, pp. 21-37.

“Moral Imagination, Objectivity and Practical Wisdom” International Philosophical QuarterlyVol. XXXI, No. 1, March, 1991, pp. 23-37.

“The Unity of the Vices,” Thomist (co-written with J. Zeis), Vol. 54, No. 4, October 1990, pp. 641-653.

“Practical Wisdom, Objectivity and Relativism,” American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 3, July, 1989, pp. 199-208.

“Deliberation, Self-Conceptions and Self-Enjoyment,” Idealistic Studies, Vol. XIX, No. 1, January, 1989, pp. 1-15.

“Relativism, Rationality and Repression,” Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 23, March, 1989, pp. 69-77. Also published in a volume from Society for Value Inquiry Meeting at World Congress of Philosophy.

“A Novel Approach to Teaching Ethics,” Teaching Philosophy, December, 1987.

“Teleology and Reduction in Biology,” in Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 1, No. 4, Fall 1986, pp. 389-399.

“Teleological Form and Explanation,” in Current Issues in Teleology, a volume edited by Nicholas Rescher, published by the Center for Philosophy of Science of the University of Pittsburgh, 1986, pp. 49-55.

“The Place of Virtue in Happiness,” in Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 19, September, 1985, pp. 171-182.

“Teleology and Essence:  An Account of the Nature of Organisms,” in Nature and System, Vol. 6, No. 1,  March, 1984, pp. 15-32.

“The Idea of a Personal History,” in the International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, June, 1984, pp. 179-187.

“Omnipotence and Concurrence,” in International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion, (co-written with J. Zeis), Vol. 14, 1983, pp. 17-23.



I am currently writing two books. One of them, 

The Liberal Polity and Criminal Sanction: Can We Achieve Both Justice and Civility? is in progress, under contract with Oxford University Press. 

The other, Criminal Justice Ethics: Principles, Problems, and Practices is in progress, under contract with Wiley/Blackwell.

Also, I have several article-length projects underway, including a paper on Natural Law in Medieval Jewish Philosophy, which I will present at a conference at one of the Papal universities in Rome, in April 2018, and a paper on Jewish Law and Philosophy of Law, which will be included in a large, multi-contributor volume on Jewish Law. 


My two main areas of interest are (i) Issues at the intersection of Ethics/Politics/Criminal Justice, (with a focus on issues concerning legal punishment) and (ii) Medieval moral thought, with a focus the thought of Jewish philosophers such as Saadia Gaon, Moses Maimonides, and Bahya ibn Pakuda. In addition, I have considerable interest in the Scottish Enlightenment and figures such as Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, and David Hume. 




Research interest

See above.


   - Areas of Specialization: Ethics, Medieval Philosophy, Moral Psychology, Theories of Punishment

I have been Editor of the journal, Criminal Justice Ethics and also Director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics since coming to John Jay College.


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Course taught


In addition to PHI 210 [Ethics], PHI 302 [Philosophy and Rights], PHI 310 [Ethics and Law], PHI 322 [Judicial and Correctional Ethics] at the undergraduate level, I am also a member of the Doctoral Faculty of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center and I teach Medieval Philosophy, and Theories of the Virtues there. 

News and Media

I occasionally receive inquiries from journalists and members of the media regarding (mostly) ethical issues in the context of criminal justice. I am occasionally quoted in newspapers (including the New York Times and several others around the country) and in journalist's magazine articles, or on radio programs such as NPR, and also in the Huffington Post. In addition I have published an Op-Ed (on higher education) in the Wall Street Journal [Sept 16, 2013].