Honors Program

Honors in Philosophy

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Paul Tudico

Thesis Professor Department

Philosophy and Humanities

Thesis Reader(s)

Allen Coates, Colin Glennon


“An American Philosophy of Punishment: Moral Permissibility, the Inferiorities of Punishment, and a Case for Pure Restitution” is an examination of the paradigm of criminal punishment currently implemented in the United States and the inherent flaws of ‘punishment’ as a system of justice. The characteristics of punishment are evaluated from a perspective, “punishment by necessity,” which attempts to justify criminal punishment for a lack of viable alternatives. David Boonin, in his book, The Problem of Punishment, offers a robust alternative paradigm of criminal justice- ‘pure restitution’. Boonin advances two arguments: (1) ‘pure restitution’ is capable of replacing punishment as a paradigm of criminal justice and (2) restitution should replace punishment because punishment is morally impermissible. This paper considers two of the most notorious objections to Barnett’s pure restitution, the “irreparable harms” and “third party victims” objections, as well as the moral status of punishment. The “irreparable harms” objection claims that the inability of restitution to entirely repair victims in crimes against the person indicates that restitution cannot offer any remedy, and that this inability is unacceptable. This objection fails to recognize the possibility for partial reparations, nor that punishment is equally incapable of wholly repairing the victims of these crimes. The “third party victims” objection claims that by compelling the offender to make restitution to the victim, the state is harming individuals in proximity to the offender, but the state is prohibited from harming individuals. This objection fails to consider the critical distinction of intent and culpability; the state does not intend to harm third parties by exacting restitution, but does so as a foreseeable consequence, whereas the offender caused an intentional harm, and thus carries a higher degree of blameworthiness. Additionally, the present implementation of restitution is considered by considering the relevant legal precedent, the Constitutional situation of restitution, and a hypothetical implementation scenario, which highlights the potential for “crime insurance/ tax”, and the other practical implications of implementing restitution.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Withheld

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.