Why Should We Care What the Public Thinks? A Critical Assessment of the Claims of Popular Punishment

In Jesper Ryberg & Julian Roberts (eds.), Popular Punishment. Oxford University Press. pp. 119-145 (2014)
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The article analyses the necessary conditions an argument for popular punishment would need to meet, and argues that it faces the challenge of a dilemma of reasonableness: either popular views on punishment are unreasonable, in which case they should carry no weight, or they are reasonable, in which case the reasons that support them, not the views, should carry weight. It proceeds to present and critically discuss three potential solutions to the dilemma, arguing that only an argument for the beneficial effects of coherence between popular views and penal policy is persuasive, but that it makes popular punishment less important than proponents claim, and offers a justification proponents will find it difficult to advance.

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Frej Thomsen
Danish National Centre for Ethics


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