Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Temporal Asymmetry of Punishment?

Punishment is a very interesting subject: it's justifications, definition, practical applications etc. However, must punishment always occur after the crime (or moral transgression) to be punishment? That is, can there be prepunishment?

Now consider a fatalistic world and the case of a clairvoyant in this world. Fatalism is not to be confused with determinism. The former is basically the thesis that no matter what anyone does at some time, a certain event will obtain at a later point in time. Determinism on the other hand, is the thesis that any event is necessitated by prior events (that given those prior events, no other outcome is objectively possible). Alternatively, one way we can think of the difference is that in fatalism, the fated event is not be determined by prior events; it will happen regardless of what happens before it whereas in determinism, events are strictly determined by prior events. (I point out the difference to obviate some possible confusions or objections)

Back to punishment. Let's say that there is a clairvoyant in some fatalistic world. This person forsees a crime by a perpetrator. Now the question is, does society have a right to punish this perp before he commits his crime (prepunish)?

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