jrawlstwoconceptsofrules - John Rawls"Punishment About the...

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John Rawls "Punishment" About the Author: John Rawls, who is now Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Harvard University, is one of the major moral and political philosophers of the twentieth century. His A Theory of Justice (1971) set the stage for an entire generation of thinkers in their discussions of justice as fairness. His most recent book is Political Liberalism (1993) About the Article: Rawls draws a crucial distinction between (1) justifying a practice or institution and (2) justifying particular actions that fall under it. He then applies this distinction to the question of how we justify punishment. He argues that utilitarian considerations justify the institution of punishment as a whole, while retributivist concerns dictate and justify the decision to punishment particular crimes in particular ways. He then shows why utilitarian justifications of punishment as a institution are not open to the kinds of abuses some critics of utilitarianism have alleged. As You Read, Consider This: 1. In what way does the distinction between justifying a practice and justifying particular actions falling under it provide the key to reconciling utilitarian and retributivist accounts of punishment? 2. Both retributivist and utilitarian approaches to punishment are often accused of opening the door to different kinds of abuses. What type of abuse is associated with each of these approaches? How does Rawls' account avoid both kinds of abuse? TWO CONCEPTS OF RULES *From "Two Concepts of Rules" by John Rawls, The Philosophical Review , Vol. 64 (1955), pp. 3 13. Reprinted by permission of the author. This is a revision of a paper given at the Harvard Philosophy Club on April 30, 1954.
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In this paper I want to show the importance of the distinction between justifying a practice 1 and justifying a particular action falling under it, and I want to explain the logical basis of this distinction and how it is possible to miss its significance. While the distinction has frequently been made, 2 and is now becoming commonplace, there remains the task of explaining the tendency either to overlook it altogether, or to fail to appreciate its importance. To show the importance of the distinction I am going to defend utilitarianism against those objections which have traditionally been made against it in connection with punishment…. I hope to show that if one uses the distinction in question then one can state utilitarianism in a way which makes it a much better explication of our considered moral judgments than these traditional objections would seem to admit. 3 Thus the importance of the dis- tinction is shown by the way it strengthens the utilitarian view regardless of whether that view is completely defensible or not. To explain how the significance of the distinction may be overlooked, I am
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jrawlstwoconceptsofrules - John Rawls"Punishment About the...

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