Ross on Retributivism

Michael J. Zimmerman

in Underivative Duty

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577446
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725425 | DOI:
Ross on Retributivism

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Since punishment involves the deliberate imposition of suffering, it is plainly in need of justification. Many theories, or combinations of theories, have been proposed in an effort to provide such justification. Central to several proposals is the retributivist idea that the guilty deserve to be punished and that this fact justifies, or helps justify, their being punished. In The Right and the Good, W. D. Ross offers a brief but trenchant critique of retributivism. Although he accepts the claim that the guilty deserve to be punished, he argues that a retributivist approach to punishment is impracticable and should therefore not be attempted. This chapter accepts Ross's conclusion but objects to portions of his argument for it. A revised version of his argument is then proposed. This version turns crucially on considerations concerning luck, considerations that at best play only a peripheral role in Ross's original argument.

Keywords: Ross; retributivism; punishment; guilty; luck

Chapter.  9256 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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