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Punishing Cruelly: Punishment, Cruelty, and Mercy

Paulo Barrozo

Boston College - Law School

Criminal Law and Philosophy, 2007
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-04

What is cruelty? How and why does it matter? What do the legal rejection of cruelty and the requirements of mercy entail? This essay asks these questions of Lucius Seneca, who first articulated an agent-based conception of cruelty in the context of punishment. The hypothesis is submitted that the answers to these questions offered in Seneca's De clementia constitute one of the turning points in the evolution of practical reason in law. I conclude, however, by arguing that even the mainstream punitive practices of contemporary western societies fail to meet the modest imperatives of the rejection of cruelty and the unconditionality of mercy propounded by Seneca.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: Punishment, Cruelty, Mercy, Seneca, Reflectivity

JEL Classification: B30, K14

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Date posted: August 10, 2007 ; Last revised: March 6, 2008

Suggested Citation

Barrozo, Paulo, Punishing Cruelly: Punishment, Cruelty, and Mercy. Criminal Law and Philosophy, 2007; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-04. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1005550

Contact Information

Paulo Barrozo (Contact Author)
Boston College - Law School ( email )
885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
(617)552-4388 (Phone)

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References:  38