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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 38, Issue 4, October 2012

Nathan Hanna
Pages 598-616
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201238433

It’s Only Natural
Legal Punishment and the Natural Right to Punish

Some philosophers defend legal punishment by appealing to a natural right to punish wrongdoers, a right people would have in a state of nature. Many of these philosophers argue that legal punishment can be justified by transferring this right to the state. I’ll argue that such a right may not be transferrable to the state because such a right may not survive the transition out of anarchy. A compelling reason for the natural right claim--that in a state of nature there are few if any viable nonpunitive enforcement options--isn’t obviously true in state contexts.

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