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Andrew Williams
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As thought-provoking as ever, Victor! Here’s one of the questions that struck me when reading your chapter, namely “Does practising deterrence punishment involve welcoming the harm (up to some threshold) that it imposes on wrongdoers; and if so, is this phenomenon relevant when deciding whether wrongdoers’ remedial duties explain their liability to be harmed?” The question arose because on my own (perhaps overly dark) understanding, using punishment as a deterrent involves welcoming wrongdoers’ suffering, or deprivation, because it is an effective instrument to change the attitudes and behaviour of potential wrongdoers. If so, the kind of harm involved in deterrence punishment seems quite different from the kind you often discuss. In many of your examples, wrongdoers are morally required and liable to be forced to provide protective services for others not because of but despite the harm they are likely to suffer in the process. (Even if we can sometimes complain about criminals being treated too leniently to provide enough deterrence we surely can’t complain about Evelyn and Fred wearing body armour in an attempt to minimize the level of harm they suffer when shielding Wayne.) Assuming support for deterrence punishment does involve welcoming the harm it imposes on wrongdoers, I worry whether the kinds of remedial duty you need to rely upon in order to justify the institution also require that wrongdoers themselves welcome their own suffering. If so, this type of duty seems significantly more difficult to defend than the remedial duties you more frequently mention because of the type of self-destructive attitude its endorsement involves. It’s one thing to expect Evelyn and Fred to make (heroic) amends for their wrongdoing by trying to shield Wayne even at the cost of their own lives. It’s another (for me, less credible) thing to expect people like them to welcome their own suffering providing that others are likely learn from it. If the appeal to remedial duties relies on this type of very demanding duty then we might need to look elsewhere to explain wrongdoers’ liabilities. It would be an advantage, then, if you could provide a less dark understanding of deterrence than the one I took for granted, or show that your justification of punishment relies on remedial duties that don’t demand wrongdoers take quite so hostile an attitude to themselves. (Sorry if I have overlooked a solution you supply elsewhere.)
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Nov 30, 2012