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Ellis1 - The Philosophical Quarterly Vol No ISSN July A...

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A DETERRENCE THEORY OF PUNISHMENT B A  E  I start from the presupposition that the use of force against another is justified only in self-defence or in defence of others against aggression. If so, the main work of justifying punishment must rely on its deterrent e ff ect, since most punishments have no other significant self-defensive e ff ect. It has often been objected to the deterrent justification of punishment that it commits us to using o ff enders unacceptably, and that it is unable to deliver acceptable limits on punishment. I describe a sort of deterrent theory which can avoid both of these objections. I If punishment is to be justified, it must be predominantly by reference to deterrence. I hold this for two reasons, neither of which I can argue for here. First, each of the so-called retributive theories is either internally in- coherent or has implausible moral implications. Secondly, even if there were an otherwise acceptable retributive theory of punishment, we should have to reject it, for I believe that violence is justified only in self-defence against aggression, that is to say, against behaviour violating a constraint which one has a right to uphold in self-interest (as is usual, I include in this the defence of others’ self-interest). This claim, of course, does not itself restrict us to a deterrent theory, for it is consistent with other possible justificatory aims: direct prevention, for instance, or reform. But most punishments have no significant preventative e ff ect, and are not intended to have any; and their beneficial reformative e ff ect is scarcely more pronounced. The simplest version of the deterrence theory of punishment, that we may punish o ff enders to deter other potential o ff enders, has usually been rejected, for two reasons. First, the theory commits us to accepting that in punishing one person in order to deter others we are unacceptably using him. There have been many ways of trying to avoid this. For now, I shall simply register my agreement The Philosophical Quarterly , Vol .  , No .  July  ISSN   © The Editors of The Philosophical Quarterly ,  . Published by Blackwell Publishing,  Garsington Road, Oxford   , UK, and  Main Street, Malden,   , USA.
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with Tony Honoré that none of them will work. 1 Broadly, attempts to avoid the problem hold that punishing o ff enders to deter others does not unacceptably use them (because, for instance, they have implicitly assented in advance to this treatment, or because they deserve their punishment), or that they have forfeited the right not to be used. But I think that the objection is correct, and the only response a proponent of the theory could make would be to accept this, and simply tough it out.
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