Drexel University associate professor of philosophy Nathan Hanna specializes in ethics and philosophy of law, focusing especially on the ethics of punishment. He presented the Titus-Hepp lecture, On Using And Abusing Those We Punish, on April 8 in Samson Talbot Hall.

“Many people think that legal punishment is morally justified because it can deter certain kinds of bad behavior,” Hanna said. “Critics of this justification often object that legally punishing people for this purpose uses them in a morally objectionable way.”

He defends an “especially challenging version” of the use objection and a variant of it — the abuse objection — that applies to deterrence justifications designed to evade the use objection. He gives reasons to “doubt that advocates of deterrence justifications can overcome both objections.”

In addition to the ethics of law and punishment, Hanna specializes in related issues such as the nature of harm and moral responsibility. He has an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering and often teaches engineering ethics, and is currently writing a book, tentatively titled Against Legal Punishment: A Philosophical Defense of Abolitionism.

April 8, 2024