Questioning Retribution, Valuing Humility

18 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2013 Last revised: 9 Jan 2014

Date Written: December 1, 2013


This essay reviews a recent book by Jeffrie Murphy: Punishment and the Moral Emotions: Essays in Law, Morality and Religion. The essay considers the intellectual evolution of Murphy, a leading Kantian legal philosopher and retributivist into one who raises hard questions about retribution as currently used in U.S. criminal justice. The moral emotions of retribution are considered along with the possible relevance of forgiveness, remorse and apology to just punishment. Also covered are the need for humility in punishment decisions and the possibility that Christian values might check the excesses of retributive passions. The essay closes with observations on similar themes drawn from the reviewer's work as a jail chaplain.

Keywords: retribution, emotion, punishment, remorse, apology, humility, Christian religion

Suggested Citation

Pillsbury, Samuel H., Questioning Retribution, Valuing Humility (December 1, 2013). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2013, Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2014-2, Available at SSRN:

Samuel H. Pillsbury (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States
213-736-1093 (Phone)

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