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The Methodology of Desert

Mary Sigler

Arizona State University - College of Law

July 29, 2010

Arizona State Law Journal, Forthcoming

In a series of books and articles Paul Robinson (along with various coauthors) builds a case for “empirical desert” as a basis for deciding who should be punished under the criminal law and how much. Robinson’s case is unconvincing in several respects. First, his attempt to discredit the leading rival, deontological desert, is based on a misconception of the prevailing methodology in deontological ethics. Additionally, by dismissing as practically irrelevant the grounds for justified punishment, Robinson’s analysis fails to take account of the dynamic interplay between social and political values on the one hand and the meaning and justification of punishment on the other. Finally, because Robinson’s pragmatic conception of desert is untethered from our political morality, it provides neither the occasion to reflect critically on our punitive institutions and practices nor the normative resources to reform them.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

Keywords: punishment, criminal, desert, empirical, deontology, reflective equilibrium

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Date posted: August 2, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Sigler, Mary, The Methodology of Desert (July 29, 2010). Arizona State Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1650873

Contact Information

Mary Sigler (Contact Author)
Arizona State University - College of Law ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
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