Theories Of Punishment: In this module we’ve examined two competing moral theories, Kantian Moral Theory and Act Utilitarianism, and we’ve seen how these theories correlate with two major theories of legal punishment, the Retributive Theory and the Utilitarian Theory. This essay assignment asks you to apply the two major theories of punishment to a strange case–the 16th century case of the dog Provetie.
The Case of the Dog Provetie It is an unusual feature of European legal history that domesticated animals were sometimes put on trial and sentenced to legal punishments. One such case, dating from 1595 in the town of Leiden in The Netherlands, is the case of a dog named Provetie.
Here is a selection from the court record: Lot Huygens Gael, Schout of the Town of Leiden, prosecutor on behalf of his lordship in criminal matters, accuses in the open Court of the Schepenes of the Town of Leiden the dog of Jan Jansse van der Poel, named Provetie, or by whatsoever other name he may be called, now a prisoner, and says that he, the said Provetie, did not scruple on Sunday last, being the 5th of May, 1595, to bite the child of Jan Jacobsz van der Poel, which child was then playing at his uncle’s house and had a piece of meat in his hand, and the said Provetie snapping at it did bite the said child and thus inflicted a wound in the second finger of the right hand, going through the skin to the flesh in such manner that the blood flowed therefrom, and the child a few days after died in consequence of fright, for which cause the prosecutor apprehended the said Provetie, all of which appears from the prisoner’s own confession, made by him without torture or being put in irons….
Sentence: The Schepenen of Leiden, having seen the claim and conclusion made and taken by Lot Huygens Gael, Schout of this town, against and to the charge of the dog of Jan Jansse van der Poel, named Provetie, or by whatsoever other name or surname he may be known, the prisoner being present, having seen, moreoever, the information obtained by the prosecutor for the purpose, besides the prisoner’s own confession made without torture or being placed in irons, doing justice in the name of, etc., have condemned and hereby do condemn him to be led and taken to the plain of Gravesteijn in this town, where evildoers are customarily punished, and that he be there hanged by the executioner to the gallows with a rope until death ensues, that further his dead body be dragged on a hurdle to the gallows-field, and that he there remain hanging to the gallows, to the deterring of other dogs and to all as an example; moreover, they declare all his goods, should he have any, to be confiscated and forfeited for the benefit of the countship.
This done in the open court, all schepenen being present, the 15th of May, 1595. The trial and death of Provetie are surely a moral error according to both retributivists and utilitarians. But the reasons that each would give would be very different, based upon very different theoretical commitments.
Essay Question The essay question can be treated in four parts as follows: Explain the Retributive Theory of Punishment.
(What is the purpose of legal punishment according to a retributivist?
When and to what extent is legal punishment justified?)
Apply the Retributive Theory critically to the case of the dog Provetie. (Why is the punishment of Provetie problematic?)
Explain the Utilitarian Theory of Punishment. (What is the purpose of legal punishment according to a utilitarian? When and to what extent is legal punishment justified?)
Apply the Utilitarian Theory critically to the case of the dog Provetie. (Why is the punishment of Provetie problematic?)
(Your answer should require a brief introduction, 4 body paragraphs, and a brief conclusion. A complete answer should total approximately 700-1000 words. Single spaced)
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