PUNISHMENT: The Supposed Justifications by Ted Honderich

PUNISHMENT: The Supposed Justifications

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This book is concerned, as the title indicates, with the validity of the customarily advanced moral justifications for the punishment of criminals. Each of the three major justifications--retributivism (or vengeance), deterrence, and reformism--are examined and are found wanting both in theory and in practice. Then, after an analysis of the relationship between liberty and punishment (in which the principles of J. S. Mill are scrutinized), the author formulates the basis of a justifiable intervention by the state or society in the lives of individuals against their wills: such intervention must accommodate not only utilitarian values, but also those of equality. Mr. Honderich's book actually does little more than reformulate, on a philosophical basis, the arguments currently employed to attack modern attitudes toward crime and punishment. Under that aspect, it still has a certain value--but one reduced by the fact that the author is concerned primarily with theory and practice in Great Britain, and that he ignores to a large extent the vast and still proliferating literature on the subject in this country. In that respect, at least, it would have been helpful to include a bibliographical guide for the reader.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1969
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World