The Limits of Moral Argument: Reason and Conviction in Tadros’ Philosophy of Punishment
Journal of Law, Ethics, and Philosophy 3:30 (2015)
43 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2013 Last revised: 17 Jul 2020
Date Written: 2015
For generations, philosophers of punishment have sought to revise or combine established theories of punishment in a way that could reconcile the utilitarian aims of punishment with the demands of justice. Victor Tadros’ recent work addresses the same problem, but answers it with an entirely original theory of punishment based on the duties criminals acquire by committing their crimes.
The unexpected appearance of a new rationale for punishment has already inspired a robust dialogue between Tadros and his critics on many of the individual claims that, linked together, comprise his argument. Eric Blumenson’s critique focuses instead on Tadros’ theory as a whole and the methodology he uses to support it. It proposes that that Tadros’ argumentative strategy can’t justify his rationale by virtue of (1) the extent and complexity of the moral reasoning he invokes, (2) the counter-intuitive results his theory produces in an array of specific cases, and (3) the superiority of a negative-retributivist account in which moral reasoning and intuitive judgments, and the principles and applications that flow from each, are coherent and mutually supportive.
Victor Tadros responds to these arguments in an essay following Blumenson’s critique.
Keywords: Punishment, Retributivism, Tadros, Blumenson, Prison, Criminal Justice
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