Censure theory and intuitions about punishment

Law and Philosophy 19 (4):491-512 (2000)
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Many philosophers and laypeople have the following two intuitions about legal punishment: the state has a pro tanto moral reason to punish all those guilty of breaking a just law and to do so in proportion to their guilt. Accepting that there can be overriding considerations not to punish all the guilty in proportion to their guilt, many philosophers still consider it a strike against any theory if it does not imply that there is always a supportive moral reason to do so. In this paper, I demonstrate that censure theory accounts for these intuitions much better than any other theory, including forms of retributivism such as desert theory and fairness theory, and explain why censure theory is able to do so.

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Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria


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