Retributive Justice and Social Cooperation

Gerald Gaus

in Retributivism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199752232
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895342 | DOI:
Retributive Justice and Social Cooperation

Show Summary Details


Based on experiments in social evolution theory and game theory, this chapter argues two points: (a) the success of social groups depends on having punishers, and (b) punishers are supplying a public good, since those who cooperate but do not punish outperform those who cooperate and do punish. If we were simply forward-looking in our reasoning, as in the simple instrumental theory of rationality—if all payoffs are either current or anticipated, and not tied to past action—social cooperation would be a mystery. The chapter shows that for societies to thrive in the presence of noncooperative “free riders,” it needs some members who are motivated to punish the free riders without instrumental justification—that is, as a matter of (evolved) sentiment or instinct rather than calculated, rational, utility-maximizing action. This, according to the chapter, accounts for both the existence of retributive “tastes” as well as their importance to social cooperation.

Keywords: retributivism; punishment; justice; social evolution; game theory; sentiment; rationality; social theory; cooperation

Chapter.  9224 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Criminal Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.