Standard Article


  1. Sarah Holtman

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee477

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Holtman, S. 2013. Punishment. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


What is punishment? What (if anything) justifies its use? Whom may we justly punish? What criteria limit the methods and severity of just punishment? These are the fundamental questions that theoretical analyses of punishment typically address. Somewhat less usual in such literature are discussions of moral constraints on the tools we employ in arrest and prosecution, the place of moral emotions, e.g., pity or resentment, in sentencing and related decisions, and the prison conditions to which we subject inmates. Both the more and the less usual questions are considered below.


  • law;
  • legal and political;
  • normative ethics;
  • philosophy;
  • punishment