Thursday, November 17, 2016

"A Moral Aversion Theory of Punishment" Version 0.1

284 days until I will be attending my first class – I hope.

Readers of previous posts know that I have been reading David Boonin’s book The Problem of Punishment.

The problem of punishment involves the fact that punishment involves intentionally harming another person. This is something that ought not to be done unless there is a good reason to do so. In his book, Boonin surveyed the "good reasons to do so" that different philosophers have offered over the years. This includes consequentialist (deterrence) theories, retributivist theories, moral education, fairness. He finds fault with all of them.

However, I do not think he gave motive utilitarian theories a fair hearing. Consequently, I have been working on a document that gives a motive utilitarian response to his objections.

Readers of previous posts also know that I no longer consider myself a motive utilitarianism. However, it is close enough to what I do believe that the points that the motive utilitarian would bring up are similar enough to the points that I would bring up. The defense I offer works within a tradition that many moral philosophers are familiar with, and avoids muddying the waters by giving the specifics of an alternative theory. Still, a careful reader will see that I use the language of desirism (people generally have many and strong reasons to do X) instead of utilitarianism (doing X will maximize utility).

I uploaded a copy of the paper in the Desirism facebook group. Look for the posting on the "Moral Aversion Theory of Punishment" and you can download a copy of the paper. At least its first draft. (Actually, its second draft.)

My intention with this paper is to work on it some more over the Thanksgiving holliday, add some citations and references, and take whatever comments people give me, and make a second edition. Finishing this second edition on November 28, I hope to be able to present it to some lawyers that I associate with and see what they say of the ideas contained within. Many of those lawyers have likely lost any interest in the philosophy of law, but, hopefully, I can find three or four who will read it and give constructive comments.

I wonder if this can become a master's thesis. However, I am not wedded to the idea. I have a lot of things that I can write about - and this one might be considered a bit too ambitious for a master's thesis. A doctoral thesis, perhaps.

Anyway, I would like comments, and you have permission to pass it around to anybody you think may be interested.

1 comment:

Ross Balmer said...

David G. McAfee had the same idea! They do say great minds think alike.

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