Ibadan Journal of the Social Sciences
Volume 21, No. 1, 2023
DOI: 10.36108/ijss/3202.12.0120

Justifying Punishment Theoretically: Between Conventional Capacity and Alternativity Test
Idowu William

Department of Philosophy, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria


Controversies abound in the fields of Political Theory, Political Philosophy and Political Science concerning the rightness or wrongness of punishment in political societies. The substance of these discussions and debates revolves around the issue of justification. To this end, the literature in these fields are replete with theories commonly tagged and termed as conventional or orthodox. The convictions in these conventional theories such as Retributivism, Deterrence and Incapacitation Theories are legion and legendary. Nevertheless, the strengths of these conventional theories are not strong enough to prevent the vitiation of the theoretical capacities encoded in them. With these lingering defects, Alternative Theories such as Expressivism, Communicativism and Contractarianism have been suggested. The strength of methodology in political theory has assisted in showing that, as much as the conventional theory are defective, in like manner, alternative theories have their defect. Based on these findings, this paper concluded that even though no theory in political philosophy is totally immune from defect, the Theory of Preservationism could be argued as an acceptable theoretical paradigm in justifying punishment. Preservationism is simple and straightforward in as much as it argues that punishment is theoretically justified as long as it preserves political society, an argument that is missing in the capacity of conventional theories as well as the test furnished in alternative theories.

Keywords: Punishment, justification, conventionality, capacity, alternativity, test, theories


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