Deriving from the notions of retribute (to give
back or return) or to receive in recompense and the Christian sense of deserved, adequate
or fit, the term retribution is now used exclusively to refer to punishment.
Retribution is punishment deserved because of
an offence and which fits the severity of the offence.
Punishment or retribution here, is justified
because it makes the offender give up money, personal freedom or comfort that is
equivalent to the harm or loss done to others.
Retribution must be distinguished from revenge
Retribution and Revenge - NEIL
VIDMAR, Duke University - School of Law
HANDBOOK OF JUSTICE RESEARCH IN LAW, Joseph Sanders and V. Lee Hamilton, eds.
Abstract: Retribution and revenge, two highly related concepts, are arguably the oldest,
most basic and most pervasive justice reactions associated with human social life. While
scholarship about retribution and revenge has tended to focus on criminal justice,
empirical evidence indicates that retribution is important in other matters related to
law. For example, medical malpractice, discrimination, and a panoply of civil lawsuits can
be primarily fueled by a desire for retribution. Retributive motives can appear at the
core of intractable business disputes and other commercial disagreements. In this article,
Professor Vidmar develops a conceptual framework to study retribution as a psychological
and social phenomenon. He explores a number of conceptual issues, including how a social
science approach differs from legal and philosophical approaches. His discussion explores
the sociological and psychological functions that punishment serves. Separate sections of
the article discuss the cognitive dynamics of retribution and its emotional/behavioral
aspects as well. The article raises important questions about retribution. Are reactions
different if the justice is dispensed by the victim, by neutral authorities, or by
"acts of fate" (or God)? What are the consequences when nothing happens to the
perpetrator? How does excessive punishment of the offender or remorse affect retributive
Just Say No to Retribution - EDWARD
L. RUBIN, Vanderbilt University - School of Law
Abstract: Retribution has become increasingly popular, among both legislators and
scholars, as a rationale for punishment. The proposed revision of the Model Criminal Code
adopts this newly fashionable standard and abandons its previous commitment to
rehabilitation. The concept of retribution, however, is too vague to serve as an effective
principle of punishment. A second definition of retribution involves desert, but the term
is both over- and under-inclusive with respect to criminal punishment.
Retribution does have a core meaning, however; it inevitably involves the idea of morally
condemning the offender. The difficulty is that moral condemnation is entirely
inconsistent with the premises of the modern administrative state. Modern governments are
supposed to be instrumental - we want them to meet our needs, not to generate their own
moral systems. It might be argued that a retributive standard responds to the people's
morality, and more specifically to their anger at the criminal. Retributive discourse is
likely to exacerbate one of the most serious problems in American criminal justice, which
is the over-use of imprisonment, particularly for non-violent offenders.
The principles of punishment that should be adopted in place of retribution are
rehabilitation and proportionality. It would forbid the two California sentences that the
Supreme Court just upheld against an Eighth Amendment challenge, where a person who stole
$399 worth of golf clubs, and another who stole $150 worth of videotapes, received
sentences of 25 years to life. Retributivists often adopt proportionality as their own
means for establishing a punishment scale, but this only illustrates the emptiness of
retribution as a concept. If retribution means anything, it is that we have some fixed
idea about the amount of punishment a particular criminal deserves or should be paid back
with, not that punishments should be determined by their relationship to other
punishments. In fact, proportionality is an independent principle. While it is
inconsistent with the concept of retribution, it serves as a complementary principle to
Retribution, Crime Reduction and the Justification of Punishment
David Wood, Law Faculty, University of Melbourne
The dualist project in the philosophy of punishment is to show how
retributivist and reductivist (utilitarian) considerations can be combined to provide an
adequate justification of punishment. Three types of dualist theories can be
distinguishedsplit-level, integrated and mere
conjunction. Split-level theories (e.g. Hart, Rawls) must be rejected, as they
relegate retributivist considerations to a lesser role. An attempted integrated theory is
put forward, appealing to the reductivist means of deterrence. However, it cannot explain
how the two types of considerations, retributivist and reductivist, are to be genuinely
integrated as opposed to merely conjoined. An attempt to find integration at the deeper
level of political philosophy is then examined, in the form of Lacey's communitarian
theory of punishment. In the end, mere conjunction dualism must be accepted by default.
This conclusion points to a deep-lying schizophrenia in our substantive criminal law.
Chris Yeomans, "Hegel on Retribution and Punishment"
Proceedings of the Ohio Philosophical Association - No. 3 (2006):
Abstract: Hegel's theory of punishment is an intriguing part of his political philosophy,
but it is difficult to interpret. Hegel is clearly a retributivist -- that is, he holds
that punishment is inherently just, and that the justice of punishment can be explained
without reference to the expected consequences of punishment (e.g., reform or deterrence).
But rather than appealing to the notion that the criminal deserves to be punished, he
instead claims that the criminal will is inherently null, and punishment is merely a way
of expressing this status by explicitly nullifying the criminal's action. As is par for
the course in Hegel studies, some commentators see Hegel as making a profound point about
the conceptual connection between crime, punishment and rights, as others accuse him of
sophistry. I think that there is an interesting truth in Hegel's discussion, and that his
argument is more sophisticated than other interpreters have recognized. For Hegel,
retribution (of which punishment is one species) is justified because it is required by
the teleological character of human agency as reflected in our goal-directed control of
property, and that control is necessary for us to be free persons.