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An Idealist Theory of Punishment

Brooks, Thom
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) University of Newcastle.(February 1, 2006). Available from the Social Science Research Network.

What is the most acceptable theory of punishment? Philosophers have advanced several
competing models as answers, including retributivism, deterrence, rehabilitative theories,
punishment as communication, and many others. This article claims that each has its strengths
and weaknesses and proposes a new way forward. Each competing view of punishment has a
number of intuitively attractive features, as well as real problems. I attempt to lay out a theory
of punishment that can best account for the attractive features while avoiding the various
problems faced by retributivist or deterrent theories, for example. This solution is indebted to
insights on punishment made by a number of German and British Idealists, such as Kant, Hegel,
Green, and Bosanquet. While I acknowledge their insights, this article does not attempt a
historical reconstruction, but rather seeks to make a contribution to contemporary debates on
punishment.(author’s abstract)


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