Contemporary Moral Issues Essays

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1. What is punishment? Why do we need a justification for punishment? What does it mean to say that harming an individual is prima facie wrong?

Answer: Punishment is defined as the intentional inflection of harm on an individual for some perceived past wrongdoing. We need justification because there is a general proscription against harming people. Harming an individual would be considered prima facie wrong. This means that harming people is wrong unless there is an overriding reason that justifies harming that person.

2. Explain the retributivist theory of punishment. Explain how the more sophisticated version of this theory differs from the simpler version.

Answer: Retributivist theory of punishment is backward looking where it looks back into the past instances of some wrong doings just to justify punishments.

3. What criticisms of retributivism do utilitarian’s make?

Answer: Utilitarian’s criticize retributivism saying that it is just a cry for revenge theory of punishment.

4. Explain the utilitarian approach to punishment.

Answer: They believe it is not a matter of revenge but it is a matter of justice. Also they need to know if that punish should actually fit the crime.

5. Explain the difference between the retributivist and the utilitarian with respect to how to determine what constitutes a just punishment for a given offense (i.e., with respect to how much punishment should be given for a given crime).

Answer: 6. Explain the (utilitarian) deterrence theory of punishment.
Answer: The deterrence theory of punishment is the goal of preventing future instances of wrong doings. Not only that but the need to know the minimum needed in order to get the deterrent effect.

7. Discuss the main criticisms of the deterrence theory of punishment.

Answer: One of the main criticisms of deterrence theory is that we could potentially punish innocent scape goats when doing so would have deterred. Also we could punish the spouses and in particularly the children of the criminals.

8. Explain why some philosophers have argued that punishment, in the strict sense, is never justified, and hence, that the aim of our criminal justice system should be rehabilitation rather than punishment.

8. Discuss some of the major criticisms that have been raised against the rehabilitationist view (i.e. the view that criminals deserve treatment rather than punishment in the pure sense).

Answer: The major criticisms that have been raised against the rehabilitationist view is that it could sanction indefinite detention, it could sanction preventive detention, and it could sanction these cruel and unusual therapies.

9. Explain how modern theories of punishment differ from purely retributivist and purely utilitarian theories.

Answer: What modern theories suggest is that it is deserved, that some future goods have consequences and will come from it.

10. By 1967 all executions had ceased in the U.S. because the constitutionality of the death penalty had been challenged on two grounds. What two