LAW 551

Philosophy of Punishment

Criminal Justice, Law & Philosophy

The seminar will focus on what (if anything) makes it morally permissible for the state to inflict “hard treatment” on people, against their will, provided they have been found guilty of criminal offenses.  Class participation will play a part in grading the students.  In addition, each student must write a final paper, roughly 20 to 30 pages, that examines one (or more) of the positions we have discussed and contains some original thinking (i.e., not simply repeating what was said by authors we’ve read).  (This paper should fulfill the substantial analytical writing requirement.)

After preliminary consideration of problems surrounding the very definition of punishment, we will examine the two principal methods of justifying the practice of punishment: consequentialist theories and retributive theories.  We will explore the strengths and drawbacks of each approach.  Toward the end of the semester, we will consider mixed or hybrid theories that try to combine elements of both consequentialism and retributivism, and perhaps some interesting new approaches, such as those put forward by Mitchell Berman and Warren Quinn, or the recent development of "restorative justice."

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