Principles of Proportionate Punishment: Comments on John Deigh, From Psychology to Morality: Essays in Ethical Naturalism

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John Deigh's new volume of previously published essays covers expansive ground—from moral psychology to the history of ethics, from James, Nietzsche and Freud to Hume, Sidgwick, and Strawson. Fully one quarter of the book, however, explores the philosophy of punishment. Deigh's dominant concern in this portion of the book is to develop and defend a novel principle of proportionality in punishment, one which provides that the severity of just punishment is a function of the damage the offense threatens or inflicts on the civil order. That is a welcome project, for philosophers of punishment widely agree that proportionality remains an elusive concept. Yet whether Deigh has solved the puzzle is uncertain. This essay raises doubts and sketches an alternative solution.


Philosophy of punishment, proportionality

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Philosophy and Phenomenological Research