Two new papers on punishment (Murtagh and Brooks) 1

Very interested by two new papers on punishment I just found:

1. Kevin Murtagh, “Is Corporally Punishing Criminals Degrading?” (forthcoming in Journal of Political Philosophy)

We routinely punish people in ways that cause them immense amounts of psychological suffering. Our current punishment of choice, imprisonment, causes this suffering by imposing drastic restrictions on liberty and disrupting the relationships, activities, and projects that bring happiness and meaning to people’s lives. We tend to find this regrettable, yet justifiable. However, if there is talk of punishing by inflicting physical pain, many people react with outrage, and assume that such a punishment would be barbaric, uncivilized, and degrading. I find this assumption to be highly dubious, and in this article I will defend the practice of corporally punishing criminals against objections that claim that it is degrading. Although I find these objections problematic, they are among the most plausible, and therefore merit close consideration in a philosophical discussion. At the outset, I will briefly list some problems with imprisonment and show that corporal punishment can help us to address them. After a few more preliminary remarks, I will discuss the conception of degrading punishment that I will be working with. Then I will articulate the main “objections from degradingness” by examining the claims of critics of corporal punishment and other practices that resemble it in certain respects. I will then respond to these objections and show that they fail to demonstrate that corporal punishment is degrading. The article will conclude with some general remarks on the topic and suggestions for future research.

2. Thom Brooks, “Autonomy, Freedom, and Punishment” (forthcoming in Jurisprudence; HT to Larry Solum)

In Punishment and Freedom, Alan Brudner offers an important contribution to how we understand retributivism and legal punishment with his theory of “legal retributivism.” One aspect of his legal retributivism is that we punish others not necessarily for the harms they threaten or enact, but for their threat to our individual autonomy. There is much promising in this account, although I believe that there are some significant concerns which remain. This essay will explain these concerns and why they may prove troublesome for legal retributivism.

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