Challenging retributivist intuitions

Hawkes, J. (2009) Challenging retributivist intuitions. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

Can punishment, a practice which involves the deliberate infliction of suffering, be justified? Retributivists and consequentialists argue that punishment can be justified, whereas abolitionists argue that it cannot. Retributivists argue that punishment is justified because wrongdoers deserve it, whereas punishment is justified for consequentialists because it is beneficial for society. A popular form of abolitionism is restorative justice, which is the view that all those affected by crime (perpetrators, victims and members of society) should be reconciled. In this thesis I argue that retributivist justifications for punishment are mistaken, and argue in favour of a consequentialist view. I also argue that consequentialism can accommodate the valuable features of restorative justice while avoiding the challenges faced by it. My arguments against retributivism will turn on a thought experiment. The experiment is designed to draw out the fundamental retributivist intuition that people who cause harm deserve to suffer harm in return, yet excludes most of the principles retributivists would use to justify the intuition. I will go on to argue that, even if the retributivist considerations did apply to the experiment, they would still not justify the claim that wrongdoers deserve to be punished. Most of the retributivist considerations are, therefore, not necessary for the intuition, and none of the considerations are sufficient for it. The retributivist considerations are, I contend, rationalisations, as the claim that wrongdoers deserve to suffer is based, not on good reasons, but on an unreliable intuition. I shall argue that the consequentialist considerations, while not being necessary, are sufficient for the claim that wrongdoers should be punished, and they should be punished, I maintain, in the interests of preventing greater harm from occurring.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Retributivism; consequentialism; abolitionism; punishment; thought experiments
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy
Supervisors:Vermaak, M.D. (Prof.)
ID Code:1635
Deposited By: Nicolene Mvinjelwa
Deposited On:23 Apr 2010 10:28
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:20
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