Consequentialist Theories of Punishment

In Matthew Altman (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook on Philosophy of Punishment. Palgrave. pp. 149-169 (2022)
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In this chapter, I consider contemporary consequentialist theories of punishment. Consequentialist theories of punishment look to the consequences of punishment to justify the institution of punishment. Two types of theories fall into this category—teleology and aggregationism. I argue that teleology is implausible as it is based on a problematic assumption about the fundamental value of criminal punishment, and that aggregationism provides a more reasonable alternative. Aggregationism holds that punishment is morally justified because it is an institution that helps society to aggregate important moral values. Several theories fall into this category, including general deterrence theories, specific deterrence theories, and preventionism. I critically evaluate these theories and argue that only one specific deterrence theory, namely, my rights-protection theory, provides the most reasonable consequentialist account of punishment.

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Hsin-Wen Lee
University of Delaware


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