APR 15

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26: APR 15


  • Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (580-613) (Part Two 600-613)
  • Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism" from The WEIRDEST People on Earth p. 146-148, (2)

Some Ways of Thinking about Just Punishment

  • Some options for Theories of Punishment
  • Retributive punishment / retributive deterrence. Requires very strong concept of MR and FW to be just. Retribution is justified by "moral desert". It can also involve "social exclusion" -- making it hard for offenders to vote or hold a job.
  • Utilitarian models of punishment: General principle: Reducing harm to public and offender.
  • Versions include: Public Health-Quarantine Model, Community welfare model (crime is a kind of welfare issue, also for communities), Rehabilitative approaches, Restorative justice. These models can overlap and tend to assume that crime has natural causes that can either be mitigated through preventative welfare measures (addressing poverty and homelessness, for example) or through rehabilitation, confinement, and/or monitoring. Does not require a strong position on FW or MR, but these approaches can trigger liberty objections. (Present discussion option here! Could you imagine a criminal insisting on being treated retributively? Maybe.)
  • Distinguishing retributive punishment from penalties. Punishment is about pain. Penalties (like speeding and parking tickets) might also hurt, but they can be justified on utilitarian grounds (fewer accidents, etc.).
  • Grounding punishment in the consent of the punished. "Thanks! I needed that!"
  • Try the "veil of ignorance" approach to finding just principles of punishment. (mention law review article)
  • We will be looking at how these models of punishment correlate with different political economies in Cavadino reading next time.

Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (Part Two)

  • See notes for part two above.

Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism"

  • This excerpt from The WEIRDEST People in the World comes in the context of a section on "universal moralizing gods" which characterize the major world religions (though Buddhism requires some discussion). H's theory is that this cultural innovation in religions allows societies to grow, solving the problems associated with living with so many strangers, something our evolved psychology did not really prepare us for.
  • The three innovations of moralizing religions are:
  • contingent afterlife:
  • free will: encouraged follower to believe they could comply with moral code by acts of choice and will.
  • moral universalism:
  • The rest of the excerpt goes into evidence of the effects of each feature on social life. The research related to free will is at top of p. 148.
  • What consequences, if any, does this research have for our thinking about the modern problems of free will and moral responsibility?
  • 1. Cultural variants on ways of thinking about agency make (or made, in the past) real differences in social morality.
  • 2. Free will has its origins in psychological adaptations that allow us to live in large societies. But the concept seems to be at an extreme when it leads us to blame without desert.
  • 3. The philosopher's concern with the metaphysical problem of free will is hard to reconcile with the cultural utility of a belief in free will. If FW is cultural why do we care about it's metaphysical grounding? It's grounded in evolved human social behaviors (culture).
  • 4. When you tell your future kids "You can do it if you try. Don't let other people control your decisions. What do you want to do with your life?" you may really be motivating them to take up a particular set of values to approach challenges. But notice this is only valuable motivationally.