Reasons for Punishment: A Study in Philosophical Translation

Criminal Law and Philosophy 14 (2):189-201 (2020)
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This article is a contribution to a symposium on Kit Wellman’s intriguing monograph, Rights Forfeiture and Punishment. Primarily, the article grapples with Wellman’s claims regarding the moral permissibility of sadistic punishment. The metaphor of “philosophical languages” is employed throughout, to compare Wellman’s use of rights-forfeiture discourse to an approach that is grounded in practical-reasons discourse. This study in philosophical translation allows us to reassess and critique Wellman’s conclusions regarding the moral permissibility of sadistic punishment. On one level, the article is an attempt to engage with Wellman’s book and rights-forfeiture based arguments on, and in, their own terms. Yet, the article is also an attempt to explain and defend a practical-reasons based approach to appraising moral permissibility. If the article succeeds, it both pays tribute to Wellman’s masterful rights-forfeiture arguments, while making the case that practical-reason arguments illuminate a wider range of salient considerations that we should wish to keep in view when considering the moral permissibility of sadistic punishments.



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A right to do wrong.Jeremy Waldron - 1981 - Ethics 92 (1):21-39.

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