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The Moral Punishment Instinct$
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Jan-Willem van Prooijen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190609979

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190609979.001.0001

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Reason or Intuition?

Reason or Intuition?

(p.69) 3 Reason or Intuition?
The Moral Punishment Instinct

Jan-Willem van Prooijen

Oxford University Press

This chapter pits the motives described in Chapter 2 against each other. If people pursue punishment, are they mainly driven by utilitarian or retributive motives? The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that retributive motives trump utilitarian motives. Sometimes people do use rational reasoning when punishing, but while emotion tends to increase punishment, reason tends to decrease punishment. At the same time, the chapter takes issue with authors who have positioned behavioral control as a “happy byproduct” of moral punishment. In the evolutionary history of our species, we evolved a moral punishment instinct because it was adaptive in controlling the behavior of selfish group members. Put differently, the power to control behavior is the very reason why humans evolved a punishment instinct as part of their intuitive moral psychology.

Keywords:   Retributive motives, utilitarian motives, torture, morality, reason, behavioral control, evolution

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