Justifying Punishment: The Educative Approach as Presumptive Favorite

Criminal Justice Ethics 31 (1):2-18 (2012)
Dan Demetriou
University of Minnesota, Morris
In The Problem of Punishment, David Boonin offers an analysis of punishment and an account of what he sees as ethically problematic about it. In this essay I make three points. First, pace Boonin's analysis, everyday examples of punishment show that it sometimes isn't harmful, but merely "discomforting." Second, intentionally discomforting offenders isn't uniquely problematic, given that we have cases of non-punitive intentional discomforture---and perhaps even harmful discomforture---that seem unobjectionable. Third, a notable fact about both non-harmful punishment and non-punitive intentional discomforture is that they aim at improving the subject. This suggests that, if the prima facie wrongness of intentionally harming another person is the fundamental challenge for punishment, the "educative defense" is the royal road to justifying the practice. I conclude by outlining one version of the educative defense that exploits this advantage while avoiding some traditional objections to the approach.
Keywords punishment  Boonin  moral education  paternalism  Problem of Punishment
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DOI 10.1080/0731129X.2012.656189
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