Category Archives: C. L. Ten

C. L. Ten

Pascal […] argued that the ‘sickness’ of religious disbelief can be cured if a man acted as if he believed in God. In the end he can work his way into genuine belief. (Whether genuine belief generated in this way will win him a place in Heaven, as Pascal thought, is more debatable, and I am inclined to think that a good God would, when confronted with such a man in the afterlife, tell him bluntly, ‘Go to Hell.’)

C. L. Ten, Mill on Liberty, Oxford, 1980, p. 129

C. L. Ten

In some real-life situations, the results of a truly neutral utilitarian calculation may be very indecisive as between liberal and illiberal solutions, with everything depending on the intensity of feelings and the way the numbers swing. No one, who is concerned with the freedom of minorities in the face of a hostile and prejudiced majority, can be happy with this situation. The fact that many utilitarians are convinced that the calculation will easily support a policy of toleration is a tribute to their latent liberalism rather than to their professed utilitarianism[.]

C. L. Ten, Mill on Liberty, Oxford, 1980, pp. 53-54

C. L. Ten

The retributive theory allows criminals to be punished without reference to the social consequences of punishment. But suppose that, for a variety of reasons, punishment significantly increases the crime rate rather than reduces it. Mentally unstable persons might be attracted by the prospect of punishment. Punishment might embitter and alienate criminals from society and increase their criminal activities. If punishment had these and other bad effects, utilitarians would renounce punishment in favour of some other more effective approach for dealing with offenders. But retributivists are still committed to punishing criminals. The effect of retributive punishment in such a situation is that there will be an increase in the number of innocent victims of crime. For whose benefit is punishment to be instituted? Surely not for the benefit of law-abiding citizens who run an increased risk of being victims of crime. Why should innocent people suffer for the sake of dispensing retributive justice?

C. L. Ten, ‘Crime and Punishment’, in Peter Singer (ed.), A Companion to Ethics, Oxford, 1991, p. 369