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Punishing the Dead

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  1. Another matter that has received attention concerns the compensation of descendents of past victims, such as slaves (see, e.g., Sher [7]. Issues of justice have of course been discussed in this context, but not (as far as I am aware) the punishment of the dead.

  2. Adverse effects may also be possible. For example, dictators who think they might be harmed after their death might be further motivated to eliminate their potential enemies. Pragmatic considerations of this kind, however, will probably not be decisive; typically, dictators do not lack motivation.

  3. Many people owe their existence to the harm done by wrongdoers throughout history; a backward looking version of the "nonidentity problem" (see, e.g., Smilanky [8, 9]). However, it does not therefore follow that they ought to think well of those wrongdoers, morally, or that harming them as they deserve ceases to be morally good.

  4. I am grateful for the invitation to participate in the original Newcastle conference (which I could not attend due to a last minute emergency), and in the present volume. I am very grateful to Dalit Lahav for her research assistance, and to Amihud Gilead, Dalit Lahav, Iddo Landau, Ariel Meirav, Daniel Statman, and the editors, for helpful comments on drafts of this paper.


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Correspondence to Saul Smilansky.

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Smilansky, S. Punishing the Dead. J Value Inquiry 52, 169–177 (2018).

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