Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Lex Talionis

  • Mark D. WhiteEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_18


The classical formulation of the view that the guilty must be punished in exact proportionate to their crimes: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

The lex talionis is otherwise known as the view that punishment for crimes must exact “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” It dates at least to the law of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi, and the general idea is cited in modern times by both scholars and laypeople in support of punishment that “fits the crime.” The lex talionis is sometimes used as a justification of retributivist punishment, which requires that the guilty receive their due punishment as a matter of right or justice, although it is less of a justification and more of a statement of the proper target of punishment (the guilty) and degree of punishment (proportionality).

The lex talionisis cited by key retributivists, including its leading proponent, Immanuel Kant, who asked “what kind and what amount of punishment is it that public justice makes its...

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCollege of Staten Island/CUNYStaten IslandUSA