Is Punishment Justified?
We are now in a position to ask the central question of the debate: if punishment aims at the defense of honor, does that provide a sufficient moral defense of punishment? And does it tell us what is the appropriate level of punishment for a given wrong? The approach of this chapter is to set out the key moral issues that must be addressed in this debate, though without attempting to settle the debate. The first moral issue is intentionality; we review the claim that punishment aims not at the suffering of the criminal in itself, but at the defense of honor. The second issue is proportionality: is honor a sufficiently important value as to justify the infliction of significant harm on wrongdoers? The third issue is necessity: is the infliction of hard treatment the only way to vindicate honor? We argue that there is room for debate on both sides of this question; the Abolitionists are wrong to suggest that punishment is obviously morally unjustified; while the retributivists are wrong to argue that hard treatment is obviously morally justified and even required. Without purporting to settle this debate, we end with a suggestion that in the future our society may learn it is able to vindicate honor without having to inflict significant hard treatment on offenders.
KeywordsCorporal Punishment Restorative Justice Monetary Compensation Physical Harm Moral Legitimacy
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