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 and retaliation.
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. 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. 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. Article discuss the cognitive dynamics of retribution
and its emotional/behavioral aspects as well. Article raises important questions about
retribution. 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. 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
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 rehabilitation.
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 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. 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.
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 (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. 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. 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.