Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 103–112 | Cite as

Zimmerman’s The Immorality of Punishment: A Critical Essay

  • Neil LevyEmail author
Original Paper


In “The Immorality of Punishment”, Michael Zimmerman attempts to show that punishment is morally unjustified and therefore wrong. In this response, I focus on two main questions. First, I examine whether Zimmerman’s empirical claims—concerning our inability to identify wrongdoers who satisfy conditions on blameworthiness and who might be reformed through punishment, and the comparative efficacy of punitive and non-punitive responses to crime—stand up to scrutiny. Second, I argue that his crucial argument from luck depends on claims about counterfactuals that ought to be rejected. I conclude that though his arguments are powerful, they fall short of his ambitious aim of demonstrating that punishment is always seriously wrong.


Punishment Blame Crime Ignorance Luck 



I would like to thank Massimo Renzo for helpful comments on a draft of this paper. This work is supported by a generous grant from the Australian Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental HealthParkvilleAustralia

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