Moral Philosophy Seminar (Monday - Week 2, HT21)

Moral Philosophy Seminar

Retributivism is the view that (1) people who act immorally deserve to suffer for so doing ; and (2) punishment by the state is justified as the right way of giving such wrongdoers what they so deserve. Despite a broad fan-base that includes Kant and Hegel, retributivism has been subjected to merciless criticism by philosophers and jurists. For these critics, the thought that wrongdoers deserve to suffer for their wrongdoing rests on illiberal and irrational sentiments of anger and vengeance. Supposedly, our retributive intuitions already presuppose a background of justified punitive institutions and so cannot, without circularity, provide a justification for such institutions themselves. In this paper, I offer a defense of a modest version of retributivism. This defense is broadly expressivist, understanding moral desert and the law’s role in meting it out as the uniquely right way to repudiate crimes and reaffirm the rights of those so wronged. I hope to show how the infliction of suffering by the state can have such significance in a way that isn’t viciously circular, and why this form of repudiation is superior to the alternatives.


The Seminar is going to be held via Microsoft teams. Please email one of the convenors below if you would like to attend.

Moral Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Ed Lamb and Jeremy Fix