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Spring 2024: Punishment

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Publication Date: 15 APRIL 2024

Pages: 116

For centuries, philosophers have reflected on the idea of punishment and its role in shaping moral and legal standards within communities. At the intersection of retribution and deterrence, punishment seeks to address wrongdoing and promote social stability. However, its effectiveness and ethical foundations remain heavily debated, sparking ongoing (and often heated) philosophical discussions. These debates aim to uncover fundamental truths about human behaviour, the interconnectedness of societies, and the desire for equality and integrity. In this issue, we are excited to explore philosophical discussions on punishment with a rather unconventional set of essays. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do! 

 

The opening piece is a collection of essays written by the “Reimagining Re-entry Public Philosophy Group”. They look at the concepts of displacement and isolation, as experienced both by individuals who have been incarcerated, as well as philosophers Drew Leder and Kym Maclaren, who have taught in prisons. Omid Tofighian and Elahe Zivardar then bring us to one of the most isolated refugee detention camps in the world, in the Republic of Nauru, where they describe how shared philosophical activity empowered individuals to resist state border violence. Accompanying this essay is a series of images and paintings by Zivardar, who reconstructed the images of the detention centre for the outside world since no photographers or journalists were allowed to enter. By centring her essay around Zivardar’s painting, “Nameless”, Ronya Ramrath brings attention to the pervasive issue of gendered violence in these immigration detention centres. 

Henrique Carvalho and Anastasia Chamberlen unsettle the idea that there is something commonsensical, necessary and unavoidable about punitive justice, while Luke Russell questions the relationship between punishment and forgiveness. Andy West concludes our main section with two brilliant conversations with Tommie Shelby and Jason Warr, helping us gain a clearer sense of what is at stake in the raw and heavily politicised debate between prison reformers and abolitionists. Along with Zivardar’s images, we are grateful for permission to include images by Sara Bennett and Carlos Martiel, along with some reflections by all three artists.

Other highlights include: comedian Will Franken questions whether there is a universal and objective purpose to comedy; Ryan J. Johnson and Biko Mandela Gray consider what Hegel’s philosophy would look like if the protagonist of the Phenomenology were black; Kate Warlow-Corcoran ponders how philosophy can help us make sense of life’s difficulties; Jana Schmidt looks to Lindsay Stonebridge and Hannah Arendt to understand how to think from someone else’s perspective; Deryn Thomas finds that post-work literature overlooks the idea that work may be a fundamental part of the human condition; and Ian Craib circles back to our main section with his review of Robert M Sapolsky’s examination of punishment in a world without free will.

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