R. A. Duff

in The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780199284238
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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This article's central question is: ‘What can justify a system of criminal punishment?’ That question is familiar, but merits clarification. The article focuses on criminal punishment imposed by criminal courts for criminal offences. So narrow a focus, though typical of penal philosophy, requires justification. First, it ignores other kinds of punishment, formal and informal, imposed by other agencies: by institutions or professions, in the family. What justifies this focus is that criminal punishment is distinctive in involving the state's exercise of its dominant coercive power over its citizens, and thus raises the distinctive question of what penal powers (if any) the state should have, and how they should be exercised. Secondly, it ignores other aspects of criminal justice, and the complex processes from which punishment flows — the investigation of crime, the criminal procedure of trial and conviction.

Keywords: punishment; criminal punishment; criminal offences; penal philosophy; penal powers; criminal justice

Article.  12486 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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