Why Compatibilists cannot resist Prepunishment: A Defense of Smilansky
Prepunishment is to hold a person morally responsible for a crime she has yet to commit. Punishing a person prior to committing a crime is considered wrong due to the fact that the crime has not yet in fact been committed. It is punishing the innocent. Prepunishment, therefore, is morally abhorrent. In a series of recent papers, Saul Smilansky (2007, 2008a, 2008b) argues that compatibilists cannot, in any principled way, reject the temptation to prepunish, which shows compatibilism to be a much more radical view, since it runs counter to our ordinary moral intuitions. Further, Smilansky argues that the common-sense objection–namely, that prepunishment is morally abhorrent–is unavailable to compatibilists because of the fact that one who has not yet committed a crime is a mere temporal matter bearing no moral significance (Robinson 2010, 590).