Punishment, Judges and Jesters: A Reply to Nathan Hanna

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (forthcoming)
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Nathan Hanna has recently addressed a claim central to my 2013 article ‘Must Punishment Be Intended to Cause Suffering’ and to the second chapter of my 2016 book An Expressive Theory of Punishment: namely, that punishment need not involve an intention to cause suffering. Hanna defends what he calls the ‘Aim To Harm Requirement’ (AHR), which he formulates as follows. AHR: ‘an agent punishes a subject only if the agent intends to harm the subject’ (Hanna 2017 p969). I’ll try to show in this note that Hanna’s latest attempts to defend AHR fail. I’ll start by setting out my own view, drawing attention to one significant, but perhaps understandable, misstatement of Hanna’s. I’ll then discuss two alleged counter-examples that Hanna presents to my view, and show that they both fail in their own terms. I’ll also argue that, given assumptions that Hanna is willing to make a scenario closely related to one that Hanna presents counts against AHR. I’ll then discuss how significant it would be if these counter-examples were successful. My view is that it wouldn’t matter much, and that anyone attracted to abolitionism should agree. I’ll conclude with a brief discussion of Hart, which may be of interest to enthusiasts and Hart scholars.

Author's Profile

Bill Wringe
Bilkent University


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