The Mixed Theory of Punishment

  • Whitley R. P. Kaufman
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 104)


For a brief period in the middle of the twentieth century, it was widely believed that the problem of punishment had finally been solved. The purported solution involved taking elements from both the utilitarian and the retributive theories and creating a “mixed” or hybrid theory. From utilitarianism came the idea that the ultimate goal of punishment was to prevent crime; from retributivism came the idea that punishment must be in response to a prior wrongdoing and be proportionate to that wrongdoing. Hence we could have the best of both worlds; a rational explanation for punishment as well as moral constraints on its use. It however soon became clear that this solution was untenable and even incoherent. It requires arbitrarily separating the two theories without any rational basis; retributivists will object to the idea that the purpose of punishment is utilitarian; utilitarians will object to the arbitrary inclusion of constraints on the maximization of utility. The solution is utterly ad hoc and hence unacceptable.


Criminal Justice System Conceptual Analysis Moral Theory Legal Formalism Moral Justification 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Whitley R. P. Kaufman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts LowellLowellUSA

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