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Colloquium: Christopher Lewis

Friday, December 1, 2023 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Cohen Hall Room 402


Please join us on Friday, December 1st for our Philosophy Department Colloquium with Professor Christopher Lewis.


The event will start at 3pm in room 402 of Cohen Hall, with a reception to follow.


Title: Unlocking Lex Talionis: why “Eye for an Eye” punishment would end Mass Incarceration immediately

Abstract: The Lex Talionis principle, or “an eye for an eye,” is widely regarded as barbarically punitive, inherently subject to discretionary bias, impossible to operationalize, and unable to provide a meaningful critique of American Mass Incarceration. I attempt to operationalize it, in conjunction with numerous assumptions that should be biased against my conclusions, to give some rough estimates of what it might in fact entail as a limit on the severity of permissible punishment. I argue that Lex Talionis would in fact demand a radically lenient transformation of the criminal legal systems of the United States (and many other countries), reducing incarceration for non-homicide offenses by at least an order of magnitude, and ending Mass Incarceration immediately. One might still reject Lex Talionis, but not because it is barbarically punitive. Indeed, if I am right about what it entails, many skeptics will likely think that it is not punitive enough.