The Fitting, the Deserving, and the Beautiful

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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Abstract

Punishment is punishment even if it is not (perceived by the punisher to be) deserved. But punishment which is not (perceived by the punisher to be) fitting is not punishment. This paper explores the differences between desert and fittingness, and argues that incorporating fittingness into thedefinition of punishment is not problematic, whereas incorporating desert in such definition is, in contrast, infamously problematic. The main difference between these two notions turns on the interesting differences between two types of normativity. Fittingness is exclusively concerned with aesthetic normativity, whereas desert is more directly concerned with moral normativity. When something is fitting, then it is, to an extent, intrinsically good, and, to an extent, it is also beautiful. The notion of fittingness has largely been ignored in discussions of punishment, yet it helps us better to understand the phenomenon of punishment, and in particular the thorny relationship between this phenomenon and desert.

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