|Selected Topics in Jurisprudence:
THE JUSTIFICATION OF PUNISHMENT
Simmons, Cohen, Cohen, & Beitz, eds., Punishment: A Philosophy & Public Affairs Reader (Princeton U.P., 1995)
Duff & Garland, A Reader on Punishment (Oxford U.P. 1994)
The Duty to Obey the Law: Selected Philosophical Readings (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998)(especially, the Introduction, Wasserstrom, Rawls, Smith, Raz, and Green)
Additional photocopied materials, including at least one on the topic of mercy (at no charge)
Kadish & Schulhofer, Criminal Law and Its Processes 102-31 (6th ed., Little, Brown 1995)
Plato, Gorgias, especially 466a-480e (various editions)
H.L.A. Hart,"Prolegomenon to the Principles of Punishment," in Punishment and Responsibility 1-28 (Oxford U.P. 1968)
Franz Kafka, "In the Penal Colony," in The Complete Stories (Shocken, 1971)
The Goals of this Course
The goal of the course is twofold: primarily, it is to enable each participant in the seminar (including me) to get a surer grasp of what each of us really deep down believes about the subject of punishment, and to organize these beliefs as best we can; secondarily (and instrumentally), it is to gain a familiarity with the recent literature on the general topic of justifying punishment.
It is my hope that our investigation will be wide enough to enable us to fit punishment into a broader picture that includes things like justice, mercy, the justice of mercy, the rule of law, the duty to obey the law, and the nature and legitimacy of legal authority. Along the way, we may have to challenge some pivotal assumptions that have guided recent thinking: for example, H.L.A. Hart's distinction between punishment's "General Justifying Aim" and its "Principle of Distribution." (Don't panic if you don't know or can't remember what that distinction is).
How the Course Is Designed to Achieve Its Goals
Each participant should, before the first class meeting, read the Hart, Plato, and Kadish and Schulhofer readings, if these are unfamiliar (or poorly remembered). At the first class meeting, we will discuss our topic in a general way, with a view toward breaking it into parts for further analysis. The idea will be to enable each class member, no later than the second meeting, to pick two readings from the required anthologies to be responsible for. "Being responsible for" a reading means being able to outline it to begin class discussion and to guide that discussion to what you have decided would be a useful resolution.
If, for example, you choose to be responsible for a reading on the "expressive theory" of punishment, you must be able to say what the theory is, and to lead a discussion that adequately covers what is distinctive about it, what other theories it conflicts with and what others it is compatible with, and what are its strengths and weaknesses (if any). Each student is encouraged to read all of the readings in the required anthologies, but no particular reading is required unless and until it has been scheduled for presentation to the class.
The Grading System Explained
There will not be a final examination. Your grade will be based upon overall class participation and a 12-15 page (typed, double-spaced) paper. Your paper will be due at noon on the last day of the examination period. This course should count toward satisfying the writing requirement for graduation.
Roll will be taken at each class meeting. Two or more unexcused absences will be grounds for the assignment of a failing grade. Please also note that class nonparticipation may influence your final grade. Because absences due to illness or conflicting family, legal, military or business duties are routinely excused, please do not telephone me to ask that an absence be excused.
I have an "open door" policy on meeting outside class. I encourage you to thrust yourselves past the bodyguards at the fourth floor security checkpoint at any time or, if you like, call me to make an appointment. My number is 651-2136, and I can be found in office 458, all day, Monday through Friday. E-mail is the most efficient means of communicating with me when I am not available in person.
E-mail Discussion List
There is an e-mail discussion list for this course. You are strongly advised to open a "panther" or other e-mail account and to subscribe to the list by sending a message to:
with no subject or signature and the following body:
subscribe law7296wae your_e-mail_address
If you are late in subscribing, and want to see what has transpired, the list archive can be found at:
Except for personal matters, please direct all e-mail to me in care of the list.
Jan. 12 Organization and Introduction
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May 13 Paper due, by noon, to 4th floor reception