A utilitarian reply to dr. McCloskey

Inquiry 8 (1-4):264 – 291 (1965)
Abstract
A theory of punishment should tell us not only when punishment is permissible but also when it is a duty. It is not clear whether McCloskey's retributivism is supposed to do this. His arguments against utilitarianism consist largely in examples of punishments unacceptable to the common moral consciousness but supposedly approved of by the consistent utilitarian. We remain unpersuaded to abandon our utilitarianism. The examples are often fanciful in character, a point which (pace McCloskey) does rob them of much of their force. If there was no tension between utilitarian precepts and those which come naturally to plain men, utilitarianism could have no claim to provide a critique of moralities. The utilitarian's attitude to such tensions is somewhat complicated, but what is certain is that there is more room in his system for the sentiments to which McCloskey appeals against him than McCloskey realizes. We agree with McCloskey, however, on the absurdity of substituting rule?utilitarianism for act?utilitarianism as an answer to his attacks. The distinction itself may represent a conceptual confusion. In our view, indeed, unmodified act?utilitarianism provides the best moral basis for thought about punishment
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