On the possibility of Kantian retributivism

Utilitas 21 (3):276-296 (2009)
Abstract
One of the most potent motivations for retributivist approaches to punishment has been their apparent connection to an ethical background shaped by the Kantian notion of morally autonomous and rational human agency. The present article challenges the plausibility of this connection. I argue that retributivism subverts, rather than embodies, the normative consequences of moral autonomy, justifying a social practice that conflicts with the considered judgments that the proper recognition of moral autonomy would authorize. The core of my case is the analysis of whether a punishment should be understood as a restriction of a criminal's freedom properly understood. I argue that the affirmative view faces serious difficulties that have not been, and are not likely to be, resolved by retributivist justifications that draw their support from Kantian moral theory
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