By Ted Honderich
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Additional info for Punishment: The Supposed Justifications Revisited
Let us suppose he makes the demand, or can be said to have a right. The question then arises of whether or not we ought to meet the demand or act on the right. We do not act on all rights. We do not act on all claims that something ought to be the case. We do not respect all principles supporting ought judgements. We need not do so when to do so would be injurious to the holder of the right. That we ought to has not been shown. 38 It is that an offender may be reformed by punishment, and that he claims this reformation as his right.
Qxd 21/10/05 8:01 PM Page 34 34 Punishment more serious that he has violated moral rights of that person? The doctrine we are considering, like others, offers no explanation. Certainly there is some difference between the two claims. It is not hard to indicate what it is. The rights claim, as against the ordinary ought claim, makes reference to a supposedly established moral principle or to the existence of supposed support of another kind for the claim. The rights claim thus has a self-referring character – it relates itself to something else.
This, same-actions retributivism, is easily discarded. People may still mean something else in saying that a man deserves a certain penalty for an offence. (4) The penalty would cause roughly as much distress to him as he caused to someone else by his offence. This different contention about a relationship is in the neighbourhood of something, as you can instructively say, that deserves hardly more attention. As it stands, however, it could not be part of any tolerable retribution theory. The reason is the same as before.