Punishment and Retribution

Philosophy 14 (55):281 - 298 (1939)

There are many difficulties connected with the notion of punishment, but perhaps it is not disputed that it is at least a deliberate infliction of pain of one kind or another. Of course, that is not an adequate description of its nature, but so far as it goes it seems to be a true one.1 And the idea that it could be morally right deliberately tp inflict pain on another, unlike, for example, the idea that it is morally right to tell the truth, is so manifestly intolerable unless we look beyond the infliction of pain itself that we are tempted to leap forward to the question, “What is the justification of such action?” before making quite explicit to ourselves what it is, over and above its being the deliberate infliction of pain, that constitutes the action punishment at all. The questions “Why hurt?” and “Why punish?” are confused with one another. No doubt some distinction between them is present vaguely in everyone's mind and the confusion may not be in fact serious: but anyhow it is a defect and should be remedied
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100060769
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