Crime, Law, & Punishment | Philosophy Tube | Summary and Q&A

May 12, 2017
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Crime, Law, & Punishment | Philosophy Tube


Legal punishment can be justified either through the consequentialist approach, which focuses on achieving positive outcomes, or the retributivist approach, which asserts that punishment is deserved regardless of its consequences.

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Key Insights

  • ๐Ÿช Consequentialism justifies legal punishment based on achieving positive consequences, while retributivism focuses on moral desert.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ป Consequentialism allows for measurement and testing of punishment effectiveness, while retributivism lacks this practicality.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Lex talionis, the law of retaliation, presents challenges in determining appropriate punishments for certain crimes.
  • ๐Ÿช Moral desert nihilism raises questions about the moral justification of punishment and challenges intuitive notions of desert.
  • ๐Ÿคจ Questions regarding the appropriate level of punishment or specific forms can be raised within both consequentialism and retributivism.
  • โ“ Punishment can still involve suffering, but the consequentialist approach suggests that the suffering may be outweighed by positive consequences.
  • ๐ŸŽฎ A third theory, communicative punishment, is introduced but not explored in this video.
  • ๐Ÿฅถ The video encourages viewers to support the creator's free philosophy education on Patreon.


if you break the law there are supposed to be consequences prison community service a fine whatever but punishing someone is deliberately inflicting suffering on them uh normally we say that inflicting suffering on people is bad so how is legal punishment justified how do we take breaking the law and translate that into punishment there are two maj... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How do consequentialists justify legal punishment?

Consequentialists argue that punishment is justified because it leads to positive outcomes, such as deterring crimes or reforming individuals. The effectiveness of punishment can be measured and tested, allowing for adjustments to achieve the best results.

Q: What is retributivism?

Retributivism holds that punishment is justified because individuals morally deserve to suffer when they break the law. It does not prioritize achieving positive consequences but rather focuses on giving individuals their just desserts.

Q: How does the theory of lex talionis fit into retributivism?

Lex talionis, also known as the law of retaliation, suggests that punishment should mirror the crime committed. However, this approach faces challenges when the crime is victimless or morally wrong itself, leading to difficulties in determining appropriate punishments.

Q: What is the position of moral desert nihilism?

Moral desert nihilism argues that there are no objective facts determining how much a criminal deserves to suffer. This challenges the notion that punishment is morally justifiable, as there is no inherent justification for inflicting suffering on individuals.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Philosophers of law use two main theories to justify legal punishment: consequentialism and retributivism.

  • Consequentialism argues that punishment aims at achieving good consequences, such as deterrence or reform, while retributivism asserts that punishment is morally deserved.

  • Consequentialism allows for measurement and testing, offering a way to evaluate the effectiveness of different punishment methods, while retributivism struggles in this area.

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