Dominic Wilkinson

Director of Medical Ethics, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

Dominic Wilkinson is director of medical ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. He is the author of Death or Disability? The ‘Carmentis Machine and Decision-making for Critically Ill Children (2013). He lives in Oxford.

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Does the desire to punish have any place in modern justice?

Dominic Wilkinson


Is this is your basic argument: Retribution (as an element of punishment) is only justified if the wrongdoer deserves to be punished

The criminal deserves to be punished only if s/he was responsible for the wrongdoing, and only to the degree that they were responsible. (If someone has diminished responsibility they deserve lesser punishment)

But in many (all?) cases responsibility is diminished because our actions are influenced by a wide variety of factors outside our control - including luck, the environment, our genes.

There are two different ways of concluding that argument. One is epistemic - responsibility is diminished to some degree in all actual ...

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