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Benjamin S. Yost
Cornell University
  1. Kant's Justification of the Death Penalty Reconsidered.Benjamin S. Yost - 2010 - Kantian Review 15 (2):1-27.
    This paper argues that Immanuel Kant’s practical philosophy contains a coherent, albeit implicit, defense of the legitimacy of capital punishment, one that refutes the most important objections leveled against it. I first show that Kant is consistent in his application of the ius talionis. I then explain how Kant can respond to the claim that death penalty violates the inviolable right to life. To address the most significant objection – the claim that execution violates human dignity – I argue that (...)
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  2. The Irrevocability of Capital Punishment.Benjamin S. Yost - 2011 - Journal of Social Philosophy 42 (3):321-340.
    One of the many arguments against capital punishment is that execution is irrevocable. At its most simple, the argument has three premises. First, legal institutions should abolish penalties that do not admit correction of error, unless there are no alternative penalties. Second, irrevocable penalties are those that do not admit of correction. Third, execution is irrevocable. It follows that capital punishment should be abolished. This paper argues for the third premise. One might think that the truth of this premise is (...)
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  3. Responsibility and Revision: A Levinasian Argument for the Abolition of Capital Punishment.Benjamin S. Yost - 2011 - Continental Philosophy Review 44 (1):41-64.
    Most readers believe that it is difficult, verging on the impossible, to extract concrete prescriptions from the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas. Although this view is largely correct, Levinas’ philosophy can, with some assistance, generate specific duties on the part of legal actors. In this paper, I argue that the fundamental premises of Levinas’ theory of justice can be used to construct a prohibition against capital punishment. After analyzing Levinas’ concepts of justice, responsibility, and interruption, I turn toward his scattered remarks (...)
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  4. Punishment, Desert, and Equality: A Levinasian Analysis.Benjamin S. Yost - 2015 - In Lisa Guenther, Geoffrey Adelsberg & Zeman Scott (eds.), Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration. Fordham UP.
    The first part of this chapter defends the claim that the over-incarceration of disadvantaged social groups is unjust. Many arguments for penal reform are based on the unequal distribution of punishment, most notably disproportionate punishment of the poor and people of color. However, some philosophers use a noncomparative conception of desert to argue that the justice of punishment is independent of its distribution. On this view, which has significant influence in 14th Amendment jurisprudence, unequal punishment is not unjust. After detailing (...)
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  5. Kant's Theory of Motivation: A Hybrid Approach.Benjamin S. Yost - 2017 - Review of Metaphysics 71 (2):293-319.
    To vindicate morality against skeptical doubts, Kant must show that agents can be moved to act independently of their sensible desires. Kant must therefore answer a motivational question: how does an agent get from the cognition that she ought to act morally to acting morally? Affectivist interpretations of Kant hold that agents are moved to act by feelings, while intellectualists appeal to cognition alone. To overcome the significant shortcomings of each view, I develop a hybrid theory of motivation. My central (...)
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  6. Rule of Law Abolitionism.Benjamin S. Yost - 2008 - Studies in Law, Politics, and Society.
  7. Kant's Demonstration of Free Will, Or, How to Do Things with Concepts.Benjamin S. Yost - 2016 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2 (2):291-309.
    Kant famously insists that free will is a condition of morality. The difficulty of providing a demonstration of freedom has left him vulnerable to devastating criticism: critics charge that Kant's post-Groundwork justification of morality amounts to a dogmatic assertion of morality's authority. My paper rebuts this objection, showing that Kant offers a cogent demonstration of freedom. My central claim is that the demonstration must be understood in practical rather than theoretical terms. A practical demonstration of x works by bringing x (...)
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    What's Wrong with Differential Punishment?Benjamin S. Yost - 2017 - Utilitas 29 (3):257-285.
    Half of the drug offenders incarcerated in the United States are black, even though whites and blacks use and sell drugs at the same rate, and blacks make up only 13 percent of the population. Noncomparativists about retributive justice see nothing wrong with this picture; for them, an offender’s desert is insensitive to facts about other offenders. By contrast, comparativists about retributive justice assert that facts about others can partially determine an offender’s desert. Not surprisingly, comparativists, especially comparative egalitarians, contend (...)
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  9.  50
    Kant on Moral Autonomy. [REVIEW]Benjamin S. Yost - 2015 - Philosophical Review 124 (2):263-268.
  10.  88
    Against Capital Punishment.Benjamin S. Yost - 2019 - New York: Oxford University Press.
    _Against Capital Punishment_ offers an innovative proceduralist argument against the death penalty. Worries about procedural injustice animate many popular and scholarly objections to capital punishment. Philosophers and legal theorists are attracted to procedural abolitionism because it sidesteps controversies over whether murderers deserve death, holding out a promise of gaining rational purchase among death penalty retentionists. Following in this path, the book remains agnostic on the substantive immorality of execution; in fact, it takes pains to reconstruct the best arguments for capital (...)
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  11. Sentencing Leniency for Black Offenders: A Procedural Defense.Benjamin S. Yost - 2021 - In Brandon Hogan, Michael Cholbi & Alex Madva (eds.), The Movement for Black Lives: Philosophical Perspectives. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
    In response to the racial disparities that plague the American criminal justice system, the Movement for Black Lives calls for an end to policing and punishment “as we know it.” But refusing to punish violent offenses leaves unprotected those most vulnerable to crime, and outright abolition thus appears to undermine black rights and liberties. I call this the decarceration dilemma. After discussing Tommie Shelby and Christopher Lewis’s attempts to resolve the dilemma, I offer my own, which employs a procedural rather (...)
     
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    Lowering the Boom: A Brief for Penal Leniency.Benjamin S. Yost - forthcoming - Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-20.
    This paper advocates for a general policy of penal leniency: judges should often sentence offenders to a punishment less severe than initially preferred. The argument’s keystone is the relatively uncontroversial Minimal Invasion Principle. MIP says that when more than one course of action satisfies a state’s legitimate aim, only the least invasive is permissibly pursued. I contend that MIP applies in two common sentencing situations. In the first, all sentences within a statutorily specified range are equally proportionate. Here MIP applies (...)
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    Punishment, Desert, and Equality: A Levinasian Analysis.Benjamin S. Yost - 2015 - In Lisa Guenther, Geoffrey Adelsberg & Scott Zeman (eds.), Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration. Fordham Up. pp. 139-157.
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