What Is the Purpose of Retribution?

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


The essential challenge to retribution from the Abolitionists is that it, like revenge, violates the Intending Harm Requirement. That is, uniquely among moral practices, it appears to involve intentionally inflicting harm on persons. However, we construct an alternative account of both revenge and retribution, according to which each aims not at intending harm for its own sake, but at the defense of honor. As Nietzsche correctly recognized, the revenger aims to restore the honor he has lost by being the object of an unjustified attack. Retribution involves the very same motive, although it is carried out by public authorities on behalf of the victim. A historical analysis reveals the fundamental continuity between revenge and honor; the public authority took over the administration of justice in order to limit violence and control the excesses of private revenge and feuding. If this is correct, it answers the Abolitionist challenge; both revenge and retribution aim not at harm but at the restoration of honor.


Criminal Justice Crime Prevention Monetary Compensation Private Enforcement Physical Attack 
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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