Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1994

Center/Program

Center for Law and Philosophy

Abstract

The institution of punishment invites a number of philosophical queries. Sometimes the question is: How do we know that inflicting discomfort and disadvantage is indeed punishment? This is a critical question, for example, in cases of deportation or disbarment proceedings.1 Classifying the sanction as punishment triggers application of the Sixth Amendment and its procedural guarantees. In other situations the question might be: Why do we punish? What is the purpose of making people suffer? In this context, we encounter the familiar debates about the conflicting appeal of retribution, general deterrence, special deterrence, and rehabilitation.

In this article I wish to pose a different sort of question: What is punishment imposed for? When those convicted of crime are punished properly, I assume that they are being punished for something. Yet it is not clear what this "something" is. In tort cases, we ordinarily say that compensation is paid for the injury suffered by the plaintiff. Note that this connection between the injury and compensation holds regardless of the purpose one advocates for tort liability. Even those who subscribe to the programs for promoting efficient behavior would not say that compensation is paid for the efficient consequences of imposing liability. Compensation can be paid only for something that has already happened.

Comments

Copyright 1994 The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues. Posted with the permission of the The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues. Personal use of this material is permitted. In addition, permission to reprint/republish this material for advertising or promotional purposes or for creating new collective works for resale or redistribution to severs or lists, or to reuse any copyrighted component of this work in other works must be obtained from the The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues. Hard copies and or electronic download of this article may be obtained by contacting the William S. Hein Co. at http://www.wshein.com/ or EBSCO at http://ejournals.ebsco.com/home.asp or Lexis/Westlaw.

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