[ExI] punishment

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 21 04:10:58 UTC 2009

--- On Wed, 3/18/09, Tom Nowell <nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

> The wiki article
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punishment
> mentions six reasons - Rehabilitation, Restoration,
> Retribution and Deterrence along with two others -
> Incapacitation (removing the offenders ability to offend
> again - maybe by keeping prisoners locked away from society
> until they are "reformed", maybe by castrating rapists,
> maybe by removing licenses to practise from people who are
> negligent) and Education.

Thanks for that contribution. However the wikipedia article carries a warning that it lacks references and sources to support the authors' claims. A reference to the Stanford Encyclopdia of Philosophy does however appear at the end, perhaps added later. I think the Stanford Encyclopia qualifies as a reliable source on this subject. 


Per the Stanford Encylopedia, we could (perhaps at the risk of over-simplifying) first classify justifications for punishment into two basic categories: forward-looking and backward-looking, i.e., consequationalist and deontological.

"The practice of punishment must be justified by reference either to forward-looking or to backward-looking considerations. If the former prevail, then the theory is consequentialist and probably some version of utilitarianism, according to which the point of the practice of punishment is to increase overall net social welfare by reducing (ideally, preventing) crime. If the latter prevail, the theory is deontological; on this approach, punishment is seen either as a good in itself or as a practice required by justice, thus making a direct claim on our allegiance. A deontological justification of punishment is likely to be a retributive justification. Or, as a third alternative, the justification of the practice may be found in some hybrid combination of these two independent alternatives. Recent attempts to avoid this duality in favor of a completely different approach have yet to meet with much success (Goldman 1982, Hoekema 1986, Hampton 1984, Ten

I find it interesting that while almost every reasonable person will agree that we ought to incarcerate or execute wrong-doers, there seems to exist no clear consensus on exactly why. 



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