The Injustice of Punishment  book cover
1st Edition

The Injustice of Punishment

ISBN 9780367594183
Published August 14, 2020 by Routledge
262 Pages

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Book Description

The Injustice of Punishment emphasizes that we can never make sense of moral responsibility while also acknowledging that punishment is sometimes unavoidable. Recognizing both the injustice and the necessity of punishment is painful but also beneficial. It motivates us to find effective means of minimizing both the use and severity of punishment, and encourages deeper inquiry into the causes of destructive behavior and how to change those causes in order to reduce the need for punishment. There is an emerging alternative to the comfortable but destructive system of moral responsibility and just deserts. That alternative is not the creation of philosophers but of sociologists, criminologists, psychologists, and workplace engineers; it was developed, tested, and employed in factories, prisons, hospitals, and other settings; and it is writ large in the practices of cultures that minimize belief in individual moral responsibility. The alternative marks a promising path to less punishment, less coercive control, deeper common commitment, and more genuine freedom.

Table of Contents

1. Beyond the Moral Responsibility System

2. The Unjust Necessity of Punishment

3. Tychonic Moral Responsibility

4. The Strike-Back Roots of Retributive Justice

5. A Just World, Moral Responsibility, and the Justice of Punishment

6. Does Denying Moral Responsibility Threaten Dignity, Rights, and Innocence?

7. Empirical Examination of Moral Responsibility

8. How Does Belief in Moral Responsibility Undermine Personal Dignity?

9. Efforts to Make Punishment Just

10. Is Therapy an Alternative?

11. The No-Blame Systems Model

12. No Limits on No-Blame

13. A Universal No-Blame System

14. Conclusion

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Bruce N. Waller is professor of philosophy at Youngstown State University. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, including Against Moral Responsibility (2011) and The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility (2015), as well as numerous journal articles.


"Like all of his books, this one is philosophically up to date, admirably engages with a very broad range of literature outside philosophy, and expresses Waller's deeply caring attitude about human beings and vehement drive to correct social evils . . . The Injustice of Punishment is an important, original, and thoughtful contribution to the assessment of punishment, and in particular to the question of whether we would be better off here without the belief in moral responsibility."Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"With his characteristic verve and originality, Waller expands on his previous work on moral responsibility with a frontal attack against the notion that punishment can ever be just. To all those who eschew supernatural explanations, this book is a must-read."Mark Bernstein, Purdue University, USA

"In this book Waller honestly and conscientiously faces up to the unpleasant conclusion that increasingly seems unavoidable: that although no one deserves punishment, we cannot do away with it. No one interested in the debate should be without this book."Michael Louis Corrado, University of North Carolina Law School, USA