Zimmerman's the immorality of punishment: a critical essay

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In "The Immorality of Punishment", Michael Zimmerman attempts to show that punishment is morally unjustified and therefore wrong. In this response, I focus on two main questions. First, I examine whether Zimmerman's empirical claims-concerning our inability to identify wrongdoers who satisfy conditions on blameworthiness and who might be reformed through punishment, and the comparative efficacy of punitive and non-punitive responses to crime-stand up to scrutiny. Second, I argue that his crucial argument from luck depends on claims about counterfactuals that ought to be rejected. I conclude that though his arguments are powerful, they fall short of his ambitious aim of demonstrating that punishment is always seriously wrong.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalCriminal Law and Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Blame
  • Crime
  • Ignorance
  • Luck
  • Punishment


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