Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Leo Zaibert




punishment, morals, feelings, philosophy


My motivation for writing on what I have come to call “the tragedy of punishment” is the seemingly paradoxical state of affairs associated with punishment. The first state of affairs is the general understanding that punishment is not just a necessary practice but also a morally good one that serves not only to give criminals their just deserts but also generally benefit society and those in it. The second state of affairs is the realization that, despite the understanding that punishment is painted as a moral good, when thinking about all the harm caused by punishment one cannot help but feel badly about it. The problem arises with the obvious conclusion that these two state of affairs seem at the very least problematically counterintuitive. How can it be that doing a moral good ends up leaving us feeling bad? In fact, many cases in which a morally good action is committed are cause for celebration but not so for punishment. What then makes punishment different from the other cases in which the result is supposed to be a good? It is an answer to this question that motivates the rest of the paper.