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The Santa Monica Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Vote result for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, Mar. 11 at 5 PM.)

Vote result for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, Mar. 11 at 5 PM.)

Group Organizer
Woodland Hills, CA
Post #: 89
Hello Philosophy Fans!

I want to remind you that the March 2012 Meetup (http://philosophy.mee...­ and http://philosophy-in-...­) is happening this Sunday, March 11, 5:00 PM - 7:30 PM (the 2nd Sunday of the month). We'll be at our usual venue in Santa Monica. (Driving/ parking/ finding-the-room directions will arrive in a separate email). Please show up on time so you don't miss out on the introduction to the topic and the start of the discussion!

If your plans to attend have changed, please update your RSVP! If you're not able to make it, be kind and free up a space on the RSVP list for someone else.

FYI, here are the dates of future gatherings: April 15 (the 3rd Sunday, 5 pm), May 20 (the 3rd Sunday, 5 pm) and, tentatively, June 10 (the 2nd Sunday, 5 pm).

After the meeting, feel free to join us for dinner and more conversation. Location: Greenview Thai (Thai/ Pan-Asian), 1.3 mi./ 3 minutes from our meeting. Fairly inexpensive and open until 11 PM, they're at 11870 Santa Monica Blvd, West LA, 90025, 310-571-3229. Take Broadway to 26th st, go left, then a quick right on Santa Monica Blvd and you're there in exactly 1.0 miles. After you pass Bundy and Brockton, Greenview is at Armacost & SMB, on the right hand side. Park on the street on in the parking lot, aboveground or underground.

The topic of discussion, the winner of the email vote this month, is:

PUNISHMENT: what is criminal punishment for and what justifies it? These are the two, basic questions. To expand on it a bit:

First, what purposes do you think punishment serves (and should serve) in society? Philosophers and other theorists have come up with a surprisingly long (and contested) list of the functions of punishment, which we will evaluate. Second, what good reasons do you think a government has in using force or threat to restrict the liberty of, take the property of, or otherwise do harm to a person who has committed a crime? Third, how do you think criminal punishment relates to the punishment of children by parents?

First, we can start with this definition of punishment from The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy


The deliberate infliction of harm upon somebody, or the withdrawal of some good from them, by an authority, in response to their being supposed to have committed some offence. Sometimes punishment may be inflicted upon an animal, or ritualistically upon an inanimate thing. The philosophical problem with punishment is that since it involves the infliction of some kind of harm, or deprivation of some kind of good, it transgresses normal ethical boundaries, and therefore requires specific ethical justification. The major elements in such a justification have been felt to be: (i) retribution: if a person has inflicted some harm on another, then justice requires retribution (see also justice, retributive); (ii) reparation: if a person has harmed another, then he owes a duty of reparation to the victim, which his punishment provides; (iii) reformation: the harm inflicted teaches the criminal to behave better in the future; (iv) deterrence: knowledge of the penalties deters potential offenders; (v) prevention: an offender who is deprived of opportunity (e.g. by being imprisoned) cannot repeat the offence. Features (iii) and (iv) are often conjoined with (v), in an indirect utilitarian approach, in which it is argued that a society with an institution of punishment in place will enjoy better conditions of life than any without it. A thought more popular among judges than philosophers is that punishment simply expresses society's revulsion at some kind of behaviour, and needs no other defence. The difficulty is that judges are often revolted by too many things, such as long hair, youth, and poverty.

READINGS - I have two very short readings and one longer one this month, plus an audio program and an optional online test. I definitely encourage you to inform and inspire your thinking on the topic with these readings and audios!

The Free Legal Encyclopedia has a 2-page entry on "Punishment - Theories Of Punishment," which offers a brief overview of the main theories and purposes of criminal punishment.

2. http://plato.stanford...­
Our main reading, the "Legal Punishment" entry in the SEP (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), is exactly on our topic. This approximately 15-page article covers the major purposes of criminal punishment and theories of its justification, including arguments pro and con for having legal punishment at all.

3. http://plato.stanford...­
The "History of the Prison" section is a 1.5-page long portion of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Michel Foucault (section 3.3). It discusses aspects of and views on punishment not covered in the other readings we have this month.

4. http://philosophytalk...­
If you want to listen to some philosophy, the Philosophy Talk radio show on "The Prison System" is a 50-minute audio program, with minimal academic jargon, that discusses the major purposes and theories of criminal punishment and how they apply to the American system of criminal justice. You can subscribe (for free) at their website for all upcoming episodes or download this episode to your computer or iPod/mp3 player for $1.29. This month, the two hosts, philosophers at Stanford, interview and debate with Kara Dansky, Executive Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. Issues raised also include how we can know when a particular punishment fits the crime (i.e., when it's a just punishment), which depends in part on what we deem punishment to be for. They also raise the question of whether society owes anything to those we legally punish (e.g., rehabilitation). The hosts and guest don't attempt to be neutral this month in their assessment of our system of criminal justice; they side with the view that, whichever theory of punishment you go with, our current prison system is unjust.

5. http://www.yourmorals...­
If you're interested in how your own views about the punishment of crimes compares to those of others, take this approximately 5-10 minute test, The "Comprehensive Justice Scale" from one of the major websites doing moral psychological research on our attitudes about many ethical issues.

OUR WEBPAGE & DISCUSSION BOARD-- I've posted the above info on our club's website, as always, and I urge you to post your ideas and reflections on the topic to the site, and read what others may have to say (either before or after the meeting). Look for the discussion thread, "PUNISHMENT: it's purposes and justifications." It's at or near the top of our home page (http://philosophy-in-...­. You can also use the direct link to the discussion thread, http://philosophy-in-...­

Whether or not you post your ideas online, jot down your thoughts and bring them to our discussion Sunday!

See you there!

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