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Punishment Theory: Moral Or Political?, Guyora Binder Jan 2002

Punishment Theory: Moral Or Political?, Guyora Binder

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This article argues that the justification of punishment is best conceived as a problem of political theory rather than moral philosophy. Noting the familiar charge that utilitarianism permits framing the innocent, it argues that retributivism is equally vulnerable to the charge that it permits lynching the guilty. It argues that both critiques unfairly attribute lawlessness and dishonesty to the respective punishment theories. As a result, they mischaracterize both as theories about what individuals should do, rather than what acts legitimate government should authorize. In so doing, they disregard how committed the founders of the respective theories were to the rule …