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Justice and punishment: The rationale of coercion.

Matravers, Martin David (1994) Justice and punishment: The rationale of coercion. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis attempts to answer the question why, and by what right, do some people punish others. I begin by examining the retributivist theory, largely through an analysis of the work of Kant and Hegel. I conclude that no adequate justification can be given for the core retributivist claim. I then go on to examine consequentialist theories of punishment and "mixed" accounts. I find that the former, like consequentialism generally, cannot accommodate the special value of persons and, thus, cannot give an adequate account of just punishment. "Mixed" accounts are also found to be flawed as they do nothing to resolve the tensions between their retributive and consequentialist elements. I go on to examine the "fair play" theory. I conclude that such a theory cannot justify punishment nor can it capture the truth of our moral obligations. I argue that fair play theorists rely on a contractarian understanding of morality and it is this that should underpin the account of punishment. Turning to contractarianism, I look at three different approaches, justice as reciprocity, as mutual advantage, and as impartiality. I argue that none of these approaches can give either an adequate grounding to justice nor to punishment. Instead I argue for a combination of mutual advantage and impartiality. That is, I argue that each agent has a prudential reason to enter into an agreement with others to co-operate on moral terms, (that is terms which would be agreed between agents conceived as fundamentally equal), but that such a reason is not sufficient. In the absence of any decisive reason, I claim that each individual so agrees as an act of existential commitment. The community thus formed is a coercive one, for it is necessary that the condition of sufficient security be fulfilled through the coercion of free-riders. Such coercion is converted into moral punishment only through being addressed to the offender as a member of the moral community. The theory of punishment combines these two elements in "hard treatment" and retributive blaming.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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