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2018

Punishment

Public Law and Legal Theory

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Why Is It Wrong To Punish Thought?, Gabriel S. Mendlow Jun 2018

Why Is It Wrong To Punish Thought?, Gabriel S. Mendlow

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It’s a venerable maxim of criminal jurisprudence that the state must never punish people for their mere thoughts—for their beliefs, desires, fantasies, and unexecuted intentions. This maxim is all but unquestioned, yet its true justification is something of a mystery. In this Essay, I argue that each of the prevailing justifications is deficient, and I conclude by proposing a novel one. The proposed justification captures the widely shared intuition that punishing a person for her mere thoughts isn’t simply disfavored by the balance of reasons but is morally wrongful in itself, an intrinsic (i.e., consequence-independent) injustice ...