Many people have the intuition that the failure to impose punishment on perpetrators of such serious human rights violations as murder, torture and rape that occurred in the course of violent conflict preceding a society’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy amounts to an injustice. This intuition is to an appreciable extent accounted for by the retributivist outlook of a high proportion of those who share it. Colleen Murphy, however, though she accepts that retributivism may justify punishment of offenders in stable (...) democracies, claims in her recent book on transitional justice that retributivism is inapplicable in the circumstances of transitional justice. I argue that the four arguments she provides in support of this claim are unsuccessful and that retributivism, assuming it to be a tenable rationale for punishment, justifies the subjection of perpetrators of at least some serious human rights abuses to sanctions in at least some transitional societies. (shrink)
I assess the justification for the granting of amnesty in the circumstances of ‘transitional justice’ advanced by certain of its supporters according to which this device is morally legitimate because it amounts to an act of mercy. I consider several prominent definitions of ‘mercy’ with a view to determining whether amnesty counts as mercy under each and what follows for its moral status. I argue that amnesty cannot count as mercy under any definition in accordance with which an act or (...) practice’s amounting to mercy lends it justificatory support, while its qualifying as mercy under certain morally neutral definitions provides no basis for considering it justified. (shrink)
Certain philosophers have argued in favour of recognising a right to freedom of conscience that includes a defeasible right of individuals to live in accordance with their perceived moral duties. This right requires the government to exempt people from general laws or regulations that prevent them from acting consistently with their perceived moral duties. The importance of protecting individuals’ integrity is sometimes invoked in favour of accommodating conscience. I argue that personal integrity is valuable since autonomy, identity and self-respect are (...) all dependent on the preservation of personal integrity. I respond to two objections, one pressed by Andrew Koppelman and the other by Richard Arneson, to the claim that personal integrity is valuable, and to a further argument by Arneson to the effect that it is unfair to others claiming accommodations to exempt those with conscience-based claims. (shrink)
This paper addresses the relationship between amnesty granted to perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and retributivism. It rebuts arguments advanced by Dan Markel and Lucy Allais in support of their claim that the granting of conditional amnesty—amnesty in exchange for perpetrators’ confessing to, and disclosing the details of, their wrongdoing—by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was consistent with retributivism. Markel contends that conditional amnesty was perfectly in line with recipients’ desert, while Allais submits that the TRC (...) secured as much retribution as was possible in the circumstances of South Africa’s democratic transition. The argument of the paper is that while retributivists have good reasons to view conditional amnesty as justified, the reasons provided by Markel and Allais are not among them. (shrink)
In this paper I consider arguments advanced by supporters of corporal punishment and argue that they have failed to show that this practice is justified on either consequentialist or retributivist grounds. Not only are there alternative punishments that bring about as much (if not more) benefit at a lower cost, but corporal punishment poses a risk of psychological harm to children and violates children’s rights. I conclude that corporal punishment is morally impermissible and that it ought to be criminalized.
Our purpose in this article is to draw attention to a connection that obtains between two dilemmas from two separate spheres: sports and the law. It is our contention that umpires in the game of cricket may face a dilemma that is similar to a dilemma confronted by legal decision makers and that comparing the nature of the dilemmas, and the arguments advanced to solve them, will serve to advance our understanding of both the law and games.
Our purpose in this paper is to consider a procedural objection to the death penalty. According to this objection, even if the death penalty is deemed, substantively speaking, a morally acceptable punishment for at least some murderers, since only a small proportion of those guilty of aggravated murder are sentenced to death and executed, while the majority of murderers escape capital punishment as a result of arbitrariness and discrimination, capital punishment should be abolished. Our targets in this paper are two (...) recent attempts, by Thomas Hurka and Michael Cholbi respectively, to defend the view that âlevelling downâ (that is, reducing the punishment imposed on a criminal from the punishment he absolutely deserves to a less severe punishment in order to achieve proportionality relative to the criminals who have escaped the punishment they absolutely deserve) is, in the context of capital punishment, morally permissible. We argue that both Hurka and Cholbi fail to show why the arbitrariness and discrimination objection impugns the death penalty. (shrink)
I assess the force of a justification for post-conflict amnesties that is aimed at overcoming the most common objection to their conferral: that they entail retributive injustice. According to this justification, retributivists ought to consider amnesties to be justified because they are analogous to plea bargains, and because retributivists need not consider plea bargains to be unacceptable. I argue with reference to the 2001 Timor-Leste immunity scheme that amnesties conditional upon perpetrators’ not only admitting guilt and confessing but also making (...) reparations may count as plea bargains. I show that plea bargains providing sentence discounts in return for guilty pleas, allowing offenders who accept these bargains to be punished in the absence of trials, and plea bargains offering leniency in punishment in exchange for offenders pleading guilty and providing testimony or other incriminating evidence against superiors or accomplices, may be consonant with versions of retributivism that allow less than the full measure of an offender’s deserved punishment to be exacted where necessary to maximise or expand deserved punishment overall. I argue that amnesties that are also plea bargains may be considered justified by plea bargain-defending retributivists. So too may amnesties conferred in exchange for perpetrators’ admitting guilt and providing incriminating testimony or other evidence against their superiors and accomplices, some of which count as plea bargains, since they too could in some cases maximise or expand deserved punishment. (shrink)
Most philosophers who have expressed a view about whether forgiveness is compatible with forgivers’ continuing to punish, or support the punishment of, people who have wronged them hold that forgiveness is compatible with punishing or favouring punishment of wrongdoers. I argue that whether forgiveness entails forbearing punishment depends on which of two senses of forgiveness is operative. On the first, sentiment-based sense of forgiveness as consisting essentially in a change of heart on the part of a victim, a victim can, (...) I submit, forgive while continuing to punish or to support the punishment of a person who has wronged her. On the second sense of forgiveness as consisting in debt remission whether or not accompanied by a change of heart, the state’s remission of the entirety of criminal offenders’ punishment qualifies as forgiveness and, moreover, the state could not forgive offenders in this sense while continuing to punish them. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to determine whether fixed courses of judicial corporal punishment and non-abusive corporal punishment of children amount to torture. I assess the reasons that have been offered for distinguishing fixed courses of JCP from torture and argue that none is successful. I argue that non-consensual JCP that inflicts severe pain is appropriately classifiable as torture, but that JCP that inflicts mild pain and entirely consensual JCP are not torturous. I consider whether any of the reasons (...) offered for distinguishing JCP from torture can distinguish non-abusive CPC from torture given certain important differences between CPC and JCP. I submit that none of these reasons is successful. I consider other possible reasons for distinguishing non-abusive CPC that inflicts severe pain from torture and argue that none is successful. I conclude that fixed courses of non-consensual JCP which inflict severe pain and non-abusive CPC that inflicts severe pain are correctly classifiable as torture. (shrink)
In The Ethics of Capital Punishment: A Philosophical Investigation of Evil and Its Consequences, Matthew Kramer argues that none of the standard rationales used to justify capital punishment successfully vindicates it and that a new justification, the purgative rationale, justifies capital punishment for defilingly evil offenders. In this article, it is argued, first, that a version of retributivism that adheres to the lex talionis as Kramer understands it does seem to call exclusively for the death penalty. Second, it is submitted (...) that the purgative rationale is over-inclusive inasmuch as Kramer considers it applicable to certain offenders with abusive or deprived backgrounds, some offenders indoctrinated to adhere to pernicious ideologies that have impelled their crimes, and wrongdoers who have sincerely repented. Third, doubts are expressed about whether the purgative rationale justifies the execution of any offenders. Even if it is true that the continued existence of an extravagantly evil offender represents an affront to humanity, as Kramer suggests, a moral obligation to execute him does not follow. Since repentance is intrinsically valuable and since repentance would extinguish the affront to humanity, the community in which an unrepentant evil offender abides is duty-bound to foster repentance on the part of the offender by imposing banishment or life imprisonment, sanctions that afford the offender the most extensive opportunity for repentance. The community is therefore obligated to impose one of these sanctions instead of capital punishment. (shrink)
Neo- pragmatists Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish have recently argued that philosophy has no consequences for legal practice (except, in the case of Fish, insofar as it carries rhetorical force). They have asserted not only that philosophy cannot provide absolute metaphysical foundations for legal practice, but also that philosophy cannot be used to criticise law. This essay examines Fish and Rorty's reasons for denying the practical force of philosophy. Although I agree with Rorty and Fish's non-foundationalism, I argue that in (...) practice lawyers employ discursive categories and concepts that can be described as philosophical. I suggest also that philosophy has a critical function and that the characterization of philosophy offered by these theorists amounts to a conservative assertion of the formal completeness and substantive justice of existing liberal legal systems. Against Fish and Rorty, I argue and selectively demonstrate that lawyers can usefully draw upon 'public ironists' such as Nietzsche, Foucault and Derrida to criticise and improve upon extant legal practices. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.22(1) 2003: 82-97. (shrink)