Free Will and Justification of Punishment

Topics: Free will, Crime, Determinism Pages: 4 (1283 words) Published: March 13, 2006
Free Will and Justification of Punishment.

If there is no libertarian free will – that is if there is either no free will or if compatibilist free will is all the free will there is, can punishment be justified?

The argument of free will versus determination is important when looking at the justification of punishment. It seems obvious to say that if something is not an individual's fault (responsibility), then they should not be blamed for it, and should not receive punishment. If people do not have free will and therefore have no control over their actions, then they cannot be held responsible for any wrongdoings.

Having free will is having the power to make choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an intervention such as fate or divine will. This is known as Libertarian free will. Determinism is the view that every event, action and decision is the inevitable consequence of past conditions, for instance, genetic and environmental influences, and the laws of nature. Compatibilism is the theory that free will and determinism are compatible. According to Hume, free will is not the ability to have made another choice in a situation, but it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if you had a different psychological disposition due to other beliefs or desires. Free acts are caused by our choices as determined by our beliefs, desires and our characters. Free will is taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility. Compatibility is sometimes expressed in terms of compatibility between moral responsibility and determination. For a person to potentially be morally responsible, they must be accountable for the moral right or wrong that they do. Only then can they be praised, blamed, rewarded or punished. The opposing view is Hard Incompatibilism – that free will cannot be compatible with determination, and that there is no free will.

In his book Living Without Freewill Derk Pereboom (2001) looks at hard...

References: Derek Pereboom, 2001, "Hard Incompatibilism and Criminal Behaviour" from Living Without Freewill.
Hugh LaFollette, 1997, Ethics In Practice, second edition, Blackwell Publishing.
Jeremy Bentham, 1823, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Oxford University Press Inc. New York.
Henning and Frueh, Cognitive-Behavioural Treatment of Incarcerated Offenders.
Ferdinand D.Schoeman, 1979, On Incapacitating the Dangerous, American Philosophical Quarterly 16.
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