Legal Punishment of Immorality: Once More into the Breach

KYLE SWAN
PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES (2016). ADVANCED ONLINE PUBLICATION. DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0727-y

Abstract: Gerald Dworkin’s overlooked defense of legal moralism attempts to undermine the traditional liberal case for a principled distinction between behavior that is immoral and criminal and behavior that is immoral but not criminal. According to Dworkin, his argument for legal moralism “depends upon a plausible idea of what making moral judgments involves.” The idea Dworkin has in mind here is a metaethical principle that many have connected to morality/reasons internalism. I agree with Dworkin that this is a plausible principle, but I argue that some of the best reasons for accepting it actually work against his enforcement thesis. I propose a principled distinction between the immoral-and-criminal and the immoral-but-not-criminal, and argue that a principle at least very much like it must be correct if the metaethical principle Dworkin avows is correct.