Richard Brandt

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Richard Brandt: Rule Utilitarianism

Chapter two in our book Philosophical Perspectives on Punishment covers different philosopher’s views on Rule Utilitarianism and how it is applied to misconduct and unlawful acts. In Richard Brandt’s discussion he raises three questions that should be addressed when identifying our American system of punishment. What is justifiable punishment for a criminals past actions? What are good principles of punishment? What defenses should be used as good excuses to keep someone from being punished?

“Our actions should be guided by a set of prescriptions the conscientious following of which by all would have maximum net expectable utility” (Brandt, 1972). In Utilitarianism they choose the set of rules or practices that would produce the greatest net expectable utility if everyone followed them. Net Expectable Utility is a more positive outcome for a higher percentage of the population. Brandt believes our system of punishment is based on three assumptions: (1) Fear of punishment deters criminal behavior. (2) Imprisonment or fines make repeat offenders less likely. (3) Imprisonment stops the criminal from harming society while that person is in prison or incarcerated. “Punishment is itself an evil, and hence should be avoided where this is consistent with the public good. Punishment should have precisely such a degree of severity that the probable disutility of greater severity just balances the probable gain in utility (less crime because of more serious threat)”(p.94). I have to agree with Brandt on this view because if the punishment does not fit the crime, criminal behavior is sure to be more prevalent. I’m a firm believer in scaring the malicious minds into acting lawfully and abiding by the law in order to keep the majority of the public safe. Brandt says that the cost should be counted along with the value of what is bought. This means to me that the punishment HAS to equal, if not be greater, then the crime. He also says...
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