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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9

Beyond Minority Report: Pre-crime, Pre-punishment and Pre-desert

Author: John N. Williams
Organisation: Singapore Management University
Publish Date: 2012
Country: Global
Sector: Public
Method: Creative thinking
Theme: Crime
Type: Article
Language: English
Tags: Crime, Punishment, Criminology, Philosophy, Minority Report, Deterrence, Justice

Since there are no higher ethical principles that overarch both principles of utility and principles of justice, both sides must run out of reasons when deciding which principles should be put first. But the unreasoned decision is ineluctable, because there are possible cases in which the principles conflict. This kind of incommensurability in ethical values emerges again in the attempt to justify punishment. A desert-theorist – one who justifies punishment in terms of what the offender deserves simply seems to have fundamental values incommensurate with those of a deterrence-theorist – one who justifies punishment in terms of the utility of the deterrent effect of the punishment. In what follows I examine a fantastic, yet coherent scenario which puts the desert-theorist back into dialogue with the deterrence-theorist. Both should judge that the form of punishment considered – punishing a person for an offence he will commit – is morally wrong. On both sides, there are good and bad arguments available for this common judgment. But it turns out that all the good arguments available to the deterrence-theorist are parasitic upon good arguments available to the desert-theorist. Therefore the desert-theorist has the better justification of punishment in general.
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