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RetributivismEssays on Theory and Policy$
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Mark D. White

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199752232

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199752232.001.0001

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Some Second Thoughts on Retributivism

Some Second Thoughts on Retributivism

(p.93) 5 Some Second Thoughts on Retributivism

Jeffrie G. Murphy

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a reflection on a long career and esteemed body of work on retributivist punishment, and details current critical stance on the subject. The chapter reassesses previous views on retributivism, considering first the moral balance theory of desert (associated with Herbert Morris), and then an embrace of the retributive emotions (as reflected in work with the late Jean Hampton), now finding them both lacking. The chapter instead recommends a profound humility regarding retributive punishment in the face of human imperfection, frailty, and essential inequality, motivated in part by William Blake, Nietzsche, and the Holy Bible. The chapter concludes with “The Two Faces of Retributivism,” asserting values still attractive in retributivism—such as its emphasis on human dignity—as well as ones not so attractive—such as the role of character in influencing our retributive judgments and actions—in the end, describing the author of this chapter “reluctant retributivist.”

Keywords:   retributivism, punishment, justice, moral balance theory, emotion, William Blake, Nietzsche, bible, humility, dignity

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