The Question of punishment and its justification has been a major preoccupation in recent philosophy of law. The reasons for this growing concern are not difficult to discover. Both philosophers and jurists have become increasingly sceptical of traditional theories of legal punishment. Each of these inherited theories was designed to establish criteria for the recognition and appraisal of punishment as a legal institution. However, alternative theories emphasised different and often conflicting criteria. Some theories emphasised moral desert and retribution, while others appealed to the social utilities of punishment. Failure to reconcile these diverse philosophical viewpoints, through sustained debate over two centuries, has been a major source of intellectual dissatisfaction.
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