Chapter

John Austin on Punishment<sup>*</sup>

Matthew H. Kramer

in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law: Volume 2

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199679829
Published online September 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191760051 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199679829.003.0003

Series: Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law

John Austin on Punishment*

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This chapter examines the strengths and weaknesses of John Austin's sanctions-based conception of law. Austin's conception of punishment is that of a deterrence-oriented theorist. According to such a conception, the psychological reaction on which the imposition of punishment centrally and indispensably trades for the fulfilment of a morally worthy purpose is the fear induced by the prospect of harmful consequences. While retaining a primary focus on fear and deterrence as the products of legal sanctions, Austin grasped to quite a considerable degree the role of those sanctions in shaping and refining people's ethical outlooks. His conception of punishment, though it never amounted to a full-blown theory, was richer and more subtle than suggested by Hart's characterization of the Austinian sovereign as a gunman writ large.

Keywords: legal sanctions; law; punishment; fear; deterrence

Chapter.  7215 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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