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Kant's Theory of Punishment

  • Thom Brooks (a1)

The most widespread interpretation amongst contemporary theorists of Kant's theory of punishment is that it is retributivist. On the contrary, I will argue there are very different senses in which Kant discusses punishment. He endorses retribution for moral law transgressions and consequentialist considerations for positive law violations. When these standpoints are taken into consideration, Kant's theory of punishment is more coherent and unified than previously thought. This reading uncovers a new problem in Kant's theory of punishment. By assuming a potential offender's intentional disposition as Kant does without knowing it for certain, we further exacerbate the opportunity for misdiagnosis – although the assumption of individual criminal culpability may be all we can reasonably be expected to use. While this difficulty is not lost on Kant, it continues to remain with us today, making Kant's theory of punishment far more relevant than previously thought.

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Christine M. Korsgaard , Creating the Kingdom of Ends, Cambridge, 1996

Jeffrie G. Murphy , ‘Kant's Theory of Criminal Punishment’, Proceedings of the Third International Kant Congress, ed. L. W. Beck , Dordrecht, 1972, p. 434

Nancy Sherman , Making a Necessity of Virtue: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue, Cambridge, 1997

David Cummiskey , Kantian Consequentialism, Oxford, 1996

J. B. Schneewind , ‘Autonomy, Obligation, and Virtue: An Overview of Kant's Moral Philosophy’, Cambridge Companion to Kant, ed. P. Guyer , Cambridge, 1992

Henry E. Allison , Kant's Theory of Freedom, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 180–98

Allen W. Wood , ‘Kant's Practical Philosophy’, Cambridge Companion to German Idealism, ed. Karl Ameriks , Cambridge, 2000

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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