Forward Thinking: How Should We Punish People For Moral Failures?

A lot of discussion about punishment centers around legal punishments for crimes against the law and punishments for children. These are great topics worthy of exploration in the future. But for this post, I want you to reflect on a lesser discussed question about punishment. Rather than talk about legal violations or how to discipline children, please answer the following question(s) about how to deal with the moral failure of those adults we interact with personally and professionally:

How and when (if ever) should we take it upon ourselves to punish someone in our lives for a moral failure? How does this vary depending on various possible relationships we might have to the the morally guilty party? Consider, for example, how or whether we might punish our friends, our partners, our parents, our colleagues, strangers we encounter, etc. What sorts of values and principles should guide us when we presume to take it upon ourselves to be moral enforcers?

If you write a blog post about this topic, send it to me at camelswithhammers @ gmail dot com and I will include it in a round up of people’s thoughts on the topic. Over at Libby Anne’s blog, we have the latest “Forward Thinking” round up, on the topic of advice for teenagers about sex. 

Previous round ups of bloggers replies about how to be forward thinking include Libby Anne’s collection of posts on civic responsibility and answers to a question I posed about how we can mourn collectively in a pluralistic waythat respects various mourners’ different beliefs and needs.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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