This paper is concerned with the tensions that arise when one juxtaposes one important liberal understanding of the nature and use of state power in circumstances of pluralism and (broadly) retributive accounts of punishment. The argument is that there are aspects of the liberal theory that seem to be in tension with aspects of retributive punishment, and that these tensions are difficult to avoid because of the attractiveness of precisely those features of each account. However, a proper understanding of both (...) liberalism and retributive punishment allows us to dissolve some of the tensions whilst also bringing each position into sharper relief. The paper begins by introducing the liberal position and outlining the apparent tensions that may arise with retributive punishment. In so doing, there is also a brief discussion of how this debate relates to the more familiar dispute between legal moralists and their opponents. The paper then proceeds by considering each of the areas of tension in turn. (shrink)
In this lively and accessible book, Matt Matravers considers the highly contested role of responsibility in politics, morality, and the law. He asks, what are we doing when we hold people responsible in deciding questions of distributive justice or of punishment? and considers the role of philosophy in answering this very contemporary question.
Antony Duff has argued that an important precondition of criminal liability is that the state has the moral standing to call the offender to account. Conditions of severe social injustice, if allowed or perpetuated by the state, can undermine this standing. Duffs argument appeals to the ordinary idea that a persons own behaviour can sometimes negate his standing to call others to account. It is argued that this is an important issue, but that the analogy with individual standing is problematic. (...) Moreover, Duffs account of standing needs to address two interconnected issues: first, when and in what way the state can lose its standing to call offenders to account, and second, over what range of offences. Key Words: criminal liability Duff punishment social injustice. (shrink)
In this essay I agrue that contemporary Anglo-American liberal egalitarianism has at its heart a tension: the goal is to find principles of justice that are fair in respecting the distinction between choice and chance and that do not invoke controversial metaphysical arguments. This is a tension because distinguishing between choice and chance itself requires invoking controversial metaphysical arguments. I proceed by offering, and then examining, the thought that Scanlon's distinction between ?attributive? and ?substantive? responsibility offers a route out of (...) the tension described above. The greater part of the essay is taken up with examining Scanlon's account of responsibility and the distinction between substantive and attributive responsibility. My conclusion is that Scanlon does not offer a compelling account of substantive compatibilism; that his theory does not, therefore, release the liberal egalitarian from the tension; but that this does not show that the direction indicated by Scanlon's theory is the wrong one. (shrink)
This collection brings together essays which reflect on the detailed arguments of "What We Owe to Each Other", and which comment critically both on Scanlon's contractualism and his revised understandings of motivation and morality. The essays illustrate the uses of Scanlon's contractualism by applying it to moral and political problems and in so doing they provide an assessment of the ability of Scanlon's contractualism by applying it to other forms of ethical theory. So, the central questions are: "What is the (...) best interpretation of the theory advanced in "'What We Owe to Each Other?'"; "How does the theory, so interpreted, stand up to criticism?"; and "How does contractualism handle certain difficult problems in politics and ethics?". To answer these questions, the collection includes the work of distinguished political philosophers. The resulting volume will make an important and original contribution to the literature on Scanlon, on contractualism and on contemporary political philosophy. (shrink)
This book aims to answer the question of why, and by what right, some people punish others. With a groundbreaking new theory, Matravers argues that the justification of punishment must be embedded in a larger political and moral theory. He also uses the problem of punishment to undermine contemporary accounts of justice.
Brian Barry's Justice as Impartiality is an important book. One of its contributions to the discipline is a characteristically clear presentation of what follows if one accepts a commitment to equality, and the reasonableness of continuing and profound disagreements about the nature of the good life (the reasonableness of pluralism). I take the argument of Justice as Impartiality to be an important next step in the attempt to give an account of the content of justice which is impartial, fair, or (...) neutral between conceptions of the good, and engaging with it has the great advantage that many of the criticisms that can be made of Barry apply to other liberal contractualist theories of social justice. It is faintly ironic that it is one of Barry's great virtues, his clarity, that makes it easier to see the problems inherent in the attempt to complete the impartialist project. I have not attempted below to offer a systematic summary and critique of Barry's book or any particular section of it. Instead I have opted to try to engage with the ideas that drive it at a more fundamental level. (shrink)