Adam Smith and the Theory of Punishment

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 10 (1):69-89 (2012)
A distinctive theory of punishment plays a central role in Smith's moral and legal theory. According to this theory, we regard the punishment of a crime as deserved only to the extent that an impartial spectator would go along with the actual or supposed resentment of the victim. The first part of this paper argues that Smith's theory deserves serious consideration and relates it to other theories such as utilitarianism and more orthodox forms of retributivism. The second part considers the objection that, because Smith's theory implies that punishment is justified only when there is some person or persons who is the victim of the crime, it cannot explain the many cases where punishment is imposed purely for the public good. It is argued that Smith's theory could be extended to cover such cases. The third part defends Smith's theory against the objection that, because it relies on our natural feelings, it cannot provide an adequate moral justification of punishment.
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DOI 10.3366/jsp.2012.0028
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Richard Price (2007/1974). A Review of the Principal Questions in Morals. [REVIEW] In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Journal of Philosophy. Blackwell Pub. Ltd. 733-734.

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