Consequences in the forms of negative sanctions ranging from fines to physical abuse to execution, ostensibly for purposes of behavioral training, process of justice or sadism.

In terms of conditioning, reward is much more effective than punishment at changing behavior. Also, if there's one thing that we've learned through classical conditioning, it's that if punishment is to have any (desired) effect at all, it must be applied very soon after the undesired activity displays - else it seems nothing more than the random and unfair smiting from a chaotic and unpredictable god.

"If I were to be punish-ed
for every little pun I shed
I'd hie me to a punny shed
and there I'd hang my punnish head."
- Dr. Samuel Johnson, who should have known better.

I had liberal baby boomer parents who did not believe in corporal punishment. They did not even truly believe in restrictions...What my parents enforced was guilt in the form of drawn out 'talks'. So rather than just a simple, short form of punishment to go along with the negative reinforcement-route of child training, I had to discuss all of the negative affects that came of my behaviour. I learned dissappointment, guilt and remorse at any early age...through my teen years my friends always asked why I didn't take advantage of all my freedom but they never quite did understand...

There has been a need to distinguish between the practice of punishment and the institution of punishment. Everyone has accepted that there is a distinction, but no one has appreciated or understand it. John Rawls, in Punishment, attempts to discern this distinction and explain it’s importance while defending utilitarianism.

There are two justifications for punishment. The first being that if one does wrong, one should suffer proportionally. This is generally an accepted view; criminals should be punished. This is referred to as the retributive view. A retributive viewpoint on punishment is one that looks back. The judge and jury look back onto what a criminal has done in order to ascertain his guilt and subsequent punishment. This is a case by case stand. The judge looks at each individual criminal and decides what shall be his fate.

The other view is a utilitarian view. Punishing those who do wrong will set an example to the rest of society, and they will, in turn, do nothing wrong. Thus, punishing criminals would benefit society in the long run. This view is forward looking. A legislator will look at a problem, such as a way to stop crime, and will create laws. These laws will create an institution, such as punishment or criminals. In the long run, this institution will. The utilitarian view then looks ahead to the consequences as a way to justify punishing wrongdoers. Therefore, the legislator creates a practice, with total disregard to each individual case.

This being the case, the question arises as to whether an innocent man will be convicted. The retributive view says no. Since an innocent man is innocent, according to his case, he is free. The innocent man has done no wrong, and as such, will not and cannot be further prosecuted. The utilitarian view, on the other hand, will allow for the punishment of an innocent man. If the innocent man being prosecuted will, in some way, benefit the society by scaring real criminals, then this act is morally justified, however misguided.

It appears that utilitarianism justifies too much. Since they follow utilitarian rules instead of the retribution view of justice, anything that benefits society is morally right. However, in order to understand the justification for an institution, one much understand the authority from which the institution derives its power. If a crooked authority were in charge of an institution, a utilitarian justification would be non-existent. In order for an institution to be justified, not only does the idea behind the institution need to be moral in the right, but the authority pushing that institution has to be morally right.

The etymology of 'punishment' gives us its underlying meaning.

The word derives from the Greek 'poine' and its latin derivative poena, which mean revenge. In its capitalized form, Poine was the Greek Goddess of revenge. Poine and poena are also the roots of our word 'pain,' as well as of penalty, penal (system), penitentiary and penance. Hence, punishment is the infliction of pain on another for the sake of attaining revenge, er, I mean justice.

Punishment, a penalty inflicted on a person for a crime or offense, by the authority to which the offender is subject; a penalty imposed in the enforcement or application of law. The punishments usual for criminal offenses in the United States are death by hanging or electricity, or by shooting, imprisonment with and without hard labor, solitary confinement, detention in a reformatory school, subjection to police supervision, imposition of fines, and putting under recognizance. In New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts, the death penalty is inflicted by electrocution, and in Delaware whipping is resorted to as a punishment for certain offenses.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Pun"ish*ment (?), n.


The act of punishing.


Any pain, suffering, or loss inflicted on a person because of a crime or offense.

I never gave them condign punishment.

The rewards and punishments of another life.

3. (Law)

A penalty inflicted by a court of justice on a convicted offender as a just retribution, and incidentally for the purposes of reformation and prevention.


© Webster 1913

Pun"ish*ment (?), n.

Severe, rough, or disastrous treatment. [Colloq. or Slang]


© Webster 1913

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.