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The Time to Punish and the Problem of Moral Luck

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Christopher New recently argued for the seemingly paradoxical idea that there is no moral reason not to punish someone before she commits her crime (‘prepunishment’), provided that we can be sure that she will, in fact, commit the crime in the future. I argue that the air of paradox dissolves if we understand the possibility of prepunishment as relying on an anti-moral-luck position. However, New does not draw the full conclusions from such a position, which would allow prepunishment even prior to the formation of a wrongful intention, on the basis of the idea that bad character is enough to entail blameworthiness. I conclude by examining a legal system which seems to use the idea of prepunishment, i.e. the Talmudic idea that we might punish a child who has not yet sinned in order to save him from sinning in the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Bar-Ilan University, Israel 52900

Publication date: 01 August 1997

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