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PHIL 309


An advanced course in a topics area, such as, metaethics, contemporary European philosophy, or Social-Political Philosophy. Prerequisite: one course in philosophy or permission of instructor. May be repeated for credit with different topics.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
One course in philosophy or permission of instructor 1 course

Fall Semester information

Jeremy Anderson

309A: Tps: Legal Punishment

The belief that crimes should be punished is so deeply ingrained that to question it may seem nutty. But it is ripe for philosophical examination. One of the starkest exercises of governments' power is the threat and practice of legal punishment. Thus, insofar as government itself requires justification, legal punishment requires it all the more. Further, if it is true (as some political theorists hold) that effective government requires the power to punish, then the basis for government itself might be called into question if punishment cannot be justified. Punishment's justification is important, then. But it is also problematic. When we punish we do things that, under other circumstances, are morally wrong and illegal: lock people up against their will, take away their property, deprive them of various rights such as the right to vote or free association, or we kill them. The purpose of this course is to critically examine justifications offered for legal punishment and alternatives to it. We will delve into the long-standing and complex debate over whether and how punishment may be justified, and consider relevant empirical data.