Rehabilitating Retributivism

20 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2012  

Mitchell N. Berman

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: July 19, 2012

Abstract

This review essay of Victor Tadros’s new book, “The Ends of Harm: The Moral Foundations of Criminal Law,” responds to Tadros’s energetic and sophisticated attacks on retributivist justifications for criminal punishment. I argue, in a nutshell, that those attacks fail. In defending retributivism, however, I also sketch original views on two questions that retributivism must address but that many or most retributivists have skated past. First, what do wrongdoers deserve — to suffer? to be punished? something else? Second, what does it mean for them to deserve it? That is, what is the normative force or significance of valid desert claims, either with respect to retributivist desert in particular or with respect to all forms of desert? Because the answers that this essay offers are preliminary, the essay also serves as a partial blueprint for further work by criminal law theorists with retributivist sympathies.

Keywords: punishment, retributivism, desert

Suggested Citation

Berman, Mitchell N., Rehabilitating Retributivism (July 19, 2012). U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 225. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2117619 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2117619

Mitchell N. Berman (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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