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Retribution and Revenge

  • Whitley R. P. Kaufman
Chapter
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 104)

Abstract

It is almost universally accepted among retributivists that revenge and retributive punishment are fundamentally different, the first being immoral but the second moral. Robert Nozick’s influential argument presents numerous features on which they purportedly differ, including the idea that revenge is personal while retribution is impersonal, and that revenge aims at the suffering of the wrongdoer while retribution aims only at justice. However influential this argument, it can easily be seen to be flawed. Revenge and retribution are identical in their essential features: both involve the intention to inflict harm on a person in response to his prior wrongdoing. There is an important distinction between the two: revenge is a privately-administered system of punishment, whereas retribution involves a state-administered public system. This distinction is important, though it implies the essential continuity of the two practices, rather than their difference. Thus it will not do to insist that retribution is justified because it is different from revenge; we need an account that allows for the essential continuity of revenge and retribution.

Keywords

Criminal Justice System Strict Liability Private Enforcement Emotional Tone Moral Wrong 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Whitley R. P. Kaufman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts LowellLowellUSA

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