Theories of Morality in Punishment Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:06:56
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Category: Morality

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As a society, we have different responses to treating untoward incidences and behaviors. We have different means in which we sanction or punish the doers of the action; yet these mean are all reflected on various theories of morality. Different countries or cultures have different systems of punishment as according to what they conform as morally acceptable to people of their kind. Some sanction death penalty, others rehabilitation, imprisonment or other ways like public humiliation and the like. The following are some theories of morality where such systems of punishments are grounded.

Stoicism considers passionate emotions like fear or envy as results of errors in judgment and that a person of moral and intellectual perfection would not have to exhibit such emotions. This theory has something to do with giving verdict to people who have committed criminal case. For example, after court hearings, the jury finds that the accused has done the crime while he was not in the proper line of thinking or was insane, the sanction would be different from those who have found guilty of the same crime.

The judge might recommend for rehabilitation or medical treatment instead of imprisonment or death penalty that might jeopardize the rationality of the person. Egoism, on the other hand, claims that persons act in response to self-interest. That is, the verdict to a case can be motivated by the interest of the jury to satisfy his own self or if he will be benefited from the result of the punishment. For example, the judge has been paid to overturn his verdict on a certain case; if the judge is thinking of his personal interest, he will do such in the name of money.

Who would not want to get money for just a single court decision? Concurrent to egoism is hedonism, which states that only pleasure or its opposite, pain, motivates persons in their decision. Our responses to certain bad behavior done to us or to others depends whether we can get pleasure or we experienced pain. The response could be brutal when it is motivated by pain or the other way around when it is motivated by pleasure.

In these three theories, the central subject is the self; where the measure for morality depends on what is most acceptable to the self. Other theories that affect decisions about morality include a gender-based one. Carol Gilligan on his work In a Different Voice states that men and women use different approaches to morality. According to her, the male approach is that individuals have certain basic rights and you are respecting those rights.

Morality in this case imposes restrictions on what you can do to punish a person; while female approach is that people have responsibilities toward others; thus giving judgment depends on the care for others. On the other hand, Lawrence Kohlberg theorized about the stages of moral development that includes: punishment and obedience, instrumental exchange, interpersonal conformity, law and order, prior rights and social contract, and universal ethical principles.

All these have something to do respect to laws and conformity to individual rights. The first stage for instance is the opposite of each other, meaning, when anyone breaks the rule or law or disobeys it, he or she will be punished according to the fifth stage prior rights and social contract. Social contract could be written or unwritten but these are contracts that state the punishments of any untoward behavior as a violation to the individual rights of persons.

The above theories stipulate that justice systems are products of moral judgment anchored to the rights of individuals or the interest of people to the rights of others ” either exploitation or preservation.


Cory, Rachel. (2006). Kolhbergs Stages of Moral Development. Retrieved December 2, 2008 from http://www. aggelia. com/htdocs/kohlberg. shtml Cypher, Allen. (____). Notes on In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan. Retrieved December 2, 2008 from http://acypher. com/BookNotes/Gilligan. html Stoicism, Egoism and Hedonism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/

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