Read James Rachels: "Punishment and Desert" text version

James Rachels: "Punishment and Desert" Rachels offers two general arguments for a retributivist justification of punishment: 1) Retributivism best conforms to our intuitions concerning desert 2) Retributivism best conforms to our intuitions concerning just punishment The Principle of Desert: "People deserve to be treated in the same way that they have (voluntarily) treated others. Those who have treated others well deserve to be treated well in return, while those who have treated others badly deserve to be treated badly in return" · · Smith and Jones Worker and Slacker

Why people should be treated as they deserve: 1) Treating people as they deserve gives them more autonomy over their lives 2) The principle of desert fairly distributes burdens and benefits 3) The principle of desert helps to answer the question: "why be moral?" note: Retributivism just is the principle of desert applied to punishment: people deserve to be punished when they have acted badly by committing crimes or causing harms Justice and Punishment Rachels claims that any system of punishment "is unjust if it departs from" the following four principles: 1) Guilt: Only the guilty can justifiably be punished 2) Equal Treatment: People who have committed the same crime should get the same punishment 3) Proportionality : The [harm of] punishment should be proportional to the [harm of] the crime 4) Excuses: People who have good excuses should not be punished, or at the very least, they should not be punished as severely Retributivism is consistent with all four principles Consequentialist accounts fail 1), 3), and 4) (note that Rachels only discusses "deterrence" based justifications of punishment) Rehabilitationist accounts fail 1), 2), and 3) (presumably moral education accounts fail





James Rachels: "Punishment and Desert"

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