Rachels, Ch 10

Theories of Punishment:

Utilitarianism and Kantian (Non-Consequential) Retributivism


    1.   Questions:

          a.      What is punishment?

          b.      Should we punish people? Why or why not?

          c.      What are the reasons/justifications for punishment?

    2.   Utilitarianism thinks punishment in-itself is evil

          a.       In-itself (apart from consequences), punishment is an evil (intrinsically evil)

          b.      Although its consequences can be good, and so it can be justified

          c.      Why do utilitarians think punishment--considered in itself apart from further consequences--is an evil?

                    i.       Because it causes unhappiness/suffering

    3.   Retributivism sees punishment in-itself as good

          a.      It is intrinsically good

          b.      Good even if nothing else good comes from it (good apart from any good consequences)

          c.      Kant's idea that it is morally important to execute the last murderer in jail even if the world was going to end

          d.      Why is punishment intrinsically good (for retributivism)?

                    i.       Treats people as they deserve to be treated

                    ii.      Justice requires it

                    iii.     "An eye for an eye" is an example of this attitude

                    iv.      Treats people with respect as autonomous agents, whose choices determine how others treat them

    4.   Utilitarianism rejects retributivism

          a.      Retributivism increases, not decreases amount of suffering in the world

          b.      It advocates an increase rather than a decrease in suffering without any compensating benefits

          c.      Moves the world away from maximum happiness, not toward it

    5.   Utilitarian justification for "punishment"

          a.      Justified only if the good results outweigh the evil involved

                    i.       Does it have good consequences?

                    ii.      Does it stop more suffering than it inflicts?

          b.      Possible good consequences of punishment

                    i.       Comfort and gratification to victims and their families

                    ii.      Prevents crime

                             (1)    Deterrence: Is a particular punishment a deterrent?

                                       (a)     E.g., does the death penalty scare away potential murders (thus preventing crime)

                             (2)    Isolates criminals: Does punishment successfully isolate criminals so they can not cause more suffering (thus preventing crime)

                    iii.     Rehabilitate wrongdoer: Make him/her a productive & happy member of society

                             (1)    In his respect, utilitarian abandons "punishment" in favor of treatment

                             (2)    Jails as "correctional facilities" (not punishment centers)

          c.      These two utilitarian goals of punishment--deterrence and rehabilitation--e in some possible tension

                    i.       Can you explain why?

    6.   Retributivism's objections to utilitarian view of punishment

          a.      Fails to respect persons and undermines human dignity

          b.      Deterrrence uses people as a means to an end (prevent crime)

          c.      Rehabilitation manipulates these people's personalities and molds them into what society wants them to be

                    i.       This violates rights of autonomous persons

    7.   Two principles of retributive punishment

          a.      One: People should be punished because and only because they have committed a crime

          b.      Two: Punishment should be proportional (not = identical) to the gravity of the offense

                    i.       Scales of justice need to be brought back into balance

                    ii.      Kant's view of capital punishment

    8.   Utilitarianism violates (rejects) both of these principles of retributive justice

          a.      One: No limit of punishment to the guilty

                    i.       Punishment can deter even if the person punished did not commit the crime

                             (1)    Consider drunk driving checks, or

                             (2)    Police randomly stopping people in a crime ridden neighborhood

          b.      Two: Nothing limits punishment to the amount deserved (could be more or less harsh, depending on what brings the best results)

                   i.       Ten years in jail for possession of marijuana may effectively deter

                   ii.      A nice "correctional facility" may be best at rehabilitation

9.      Retributivism's arguments for punishment

         a.      Punishment treats people as ends in themselves

         b.      Shows respect for people by treating them as they deserve to be treated

         c.      Treating people as responsible for their choices

                   i.       Respect them as rational and free beings

                            (1)    They are not children or mentally unfit or animals, none of whom are responsible

                   ii.      Praise and blame, rewards and punishments are ways of respecting people

         d.       By allowing people's conduct to determine how we respond to them, we respect their free choices and give them control over their lives

                   i.       If they want to be treated well, then they should treat others well

                   ii.      If they treat others poorly, then this is how we shall treat them

         e.      We comply with the criminal's own choices and wishes when we punish him for his evil deeds

                   i.       1st version of the categorical imperative: Universalize our acts

                   ii.      Treat him as he has decided people ought to be treated


                   iii.     Respect his judgment

                   iv.     He brought the evil deed onto himself

Rachels, Ch 10, Section on Retributivist and Utilitarian Justifications for Punishment

1.      Explain the retributivist and the utilitarian view of punishment.

2.      What are their views about punishment considered in itself (apart from any consequences)? (Good? Bad? Why?)

3.      What rationales would each give for punishment and what sorts of punishment would each accept? (Consider: Deterrence, rehabilitation of wrong doer, and giving a criminal what she deserves.)

4.      Explain the arguments each would use against the other's views.

5.      In your own judgment, whose views are better? Why?

6.      What are the two principles of retributivist punishment and explain how utilitarian violates each.

7.      Explain why retributivists think that punishment shows respect for the person punished.