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Punishment

Vengeance And Punishment, Retribution And Consequentialism, The Enlightenment, From Justification To Explanation, Bibliography

Punishment is best defined as an authorized agent or institution intentionally inflicting pain on an offender or depriving the offender of something in response to an offense or crime the offender is said to have committed. But definitions, however broad, need to be approached with caution, since it is impossible to perfectly capture the myriad constellations of social practices labeled punishment over time and throughout the world. It is helpful to keep in mind Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844–1900) distinction between the forms of punishment (which have maintained a level of continuity) and the meanings of punishment (which have been numerous over time). Indeed, until Nietzsche, philosophical concern with punishment had been almost completely devoted to delineating the justifications of social sanctions. Although many philosophers, especially since the Enlightenment, have seen the great question as why anyone should be allowed to intentionally inflict harm at all, this need to justify the practice has been relatively recent. The more historically resonant need has not been to legitimate punishment itself but rather to distinguish punishment from revenge and justice from mere retribution.

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