The Honors Thesis is a distinguished way to complete the B.A. degree.
Unjustified: Exploring Flaws in Current State Justifications of Punishment and a Defense of Rights Forfeiture
This thesis explores the various justifications behind punishing criminals. Included in this project are the common views of deterrence, retributivism, rehabilitation, and incapacitation. Through a discussion of those theories and a survey of multiple objections, they are all deemed insufficient justifications for punishment. Alternative theories such as duty-based views and restitution are also considered. After considering those theories and objections to them as well, they are also deemed insufficient. The project concludes with a consideration and defense of a rights forfeiture view. The theory that this thesis defends is that the punishment of a criminal is justified because when the criminal violates another person's rights, the criminal forfeits the right they once had against punishment.
Autonomy, Equal Citizenship and Pornography: Interpreting Associated Harms Under a Liberal Framework
I present a discussion surrounding the ethics of pornography. Specifically, I look at if there is broad, moral right to consume pornography as part of a larger right to sexual self-determination. If there is a moral right to consumption of pornography, government restriction would not be permissible. Alternatively, if there does not exist a moral right to pornography, then action taken to curtail its circulation could be permissible. I conclude that based off the harms associated with pornography, through production and consumption, there does not exist a moral right. Understood through a liberal framework, the goal of society is to establish true and equal citizenship. These goals are made difficult in part because of the role of pornography in our society. I conclude that although there does not exist a moral right to consume pornography, regulation is not currently the right path. I suggest that we are in a position of transitional justice, one that demands smaller moves to push us closer to equality. Although there might be a time in the future where regulation could be the best option, presently civic education with a focus on accounting for our own biases and prejudices can lead to a shift in societal attitude. An emphasis on changing attitudes prior to legal regulation can position us closer to equality.
The Unified Neutral Theory in Ecology and Idealization in Science
Neutral theories play an increasingly important role in explaining biodiversity. Ecologists tend to look at them as null hypotheses/models because of their apparent disconnect from a simple deterministic picture of species composition through competitive exclusion. I contend that this practice stems from the confusing nature of observing stochastic processes in real-world scenarios. In this paper, I argue that the Unified Neutral Theory presents a case in support of the view that stochastic processes are real causal processes and contribute to the explanation for community dynamics no less than deterministic processes.