In the US as in many other countries, a criminal conviction results in treatment that would otherwise be thought to violate important rights. What (if anything) makes this practice morally permissible? The seminar will examine a number of the answers that philosophers and legal scholars have proposed.
Although class participation will play a part in grading, more emphasis will be placed on the final paper that each student will be required to write. These papers (ideally about 20 to 30 pages long) should deal with some issue, problem, or question related to what has been discussed in class, and should exhibit some original thinking rather than simply repeating what was said by authors we have read. (A paper meeting this description would satisfy the substantial writing requirement.)
After briefly noting problems surrounding the very definition of punishment, we will examine the traditionally most prominent methods of justifying the practice of punishment: consequentialist or utilitarian theories and retributive theories. We’ll explore the strengths and drawbacks of these approaches, and then consider some efforts to combine elements of both theories, and perhaps hopefully some interesting new approaches, such as those put forward by Mitchell Berman and Warren Quinn, or the recent development of "restorative justice."