This introductory chapter states the book's thesis — that penal action by public officials is permissible force rather than wrongful violence only if it could be accepted by the agent as being consistent with its freedom. It outlines the various conceptions of freedom that compete for control of the penal law and announces his intention to reconcile them within an inclusive idea of freedom. It describes the apparent paradoxes in the penal law's basic structure and argues that only a theory based on an inclusive idea of freedom can unify the law while remaining faithful to its complexity. The chapter contrasts the political theory of the penal law the book will be offering to the dominant moral theory, legal retributivism with moral retributivism, and argues that a moral theory of the penal law based on blame and censure produces a penal law incompatible with the agent's inviolability.
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