Edexcel Philosophy and Ethics Course for A2. (Religious Studies)

Justice, Law and Punishment.

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Horner and Westacott: "Justice is fairness, a way back from the deaths for those who fail."

  • Social Democracy
  • Legal and Moral Systems joined


  • Justice is the way to the happiest life.
  • State and individual should be ruled by reason (Kantian)
  • We naturally follow our own self interest, which is why justice is necessary to instill a sense of order in society. 

Marx: "True justice will only fluorish in a classless society."

4 notions of equality including: Fundamental Equality (citizens treated as equals by government) and Social Equality (right to vote and stand for public office)

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Problems with Equality and Justice

David Hume: "One could never achieve a justice system based on what people deserve."

Thomas Nagel: Inequality of opportunity leads to inequality of result. To level out these natural inequalities would limit human freedom and prevent humans from making the most of their talents.

Marx's Redistributive Taxation: Taxing wealthy heavily to give to the poor.

Charles Colson: "A law must be grounded in objective truth." Justice can only be maintained if authority is upheld.

Bible: Sense of inequality. "Man and woman are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:28). After the Fall, woman becomes subordinate to man.

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Law and Punishment

Social Contractarians = People agree to give up some freedom and obey the state in return for protection, security and work for the common good.

Authority comes form the notion of consent and state must have sufficient power to ensure citizens obey the law.

William Frankena: "The right is to promote the general good"

Thomas Hobbes: "Without law life would be nasty, brutish and short." The ruler should be above the law.

John Lock: Opposed Hobbes - states duty to uphold individuals rights and freedoms. Eg American Declaraction of Independence. Thomas Paine = The individual should be given liberty as long as no harm is done to others.

JS Mill: Under social contract, it's right to protect the needs of minority groups > Harm Principle.

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Law and Punishment (2)

Law = Rules that govern relationships to enable people to live together in freedom, safety and order. Protecting weak from oppression of strong. (State enforced)

Aquinas: If the law is not just, people have no duty to obey it. (Paternalistic)

St Paul: Leader of country comes from God - we shouldn't question their authority.

JS Mill: "The individual is not accountable to society for his actions" Do as you wish as long as it doesn't negatively impact society.

Kant: It might be right to disobey the law if it conflict with the CI.

Punishment = Intentional infliction of suffering to ensure laws are upheld.

Charles Colson: "They form voluntary restraints and inform conscience." Christian idea that punishment should be redemptive.

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Purposes and Types of Punishment

5 Purposes of Punishment Include:

  • Deterrence - discouraging a person
  • Reform - Changing offenders viewpoint so they won't reoffend.
  • Protection - Protect society from offenders actions
  • Retribution

However unlimited revenge would lead to anarchy socontrols are put in place.

The offender must have comitted the crime as an autonomous moral agent.

Typical Forms of Retributive Punishment:

  • Corporal punishment and execution
  • Seizing of goods/restricting ownership
  • Restriction of movement

Conclusion: In UK, nearlly half all prisoners reoffend.

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