Guit, Anger, and Retribution

Legal Theory 16 (1):59-76 (2010)
This article focuses primarily on the emotion of guilt as providing a justification for retributive legal punishment. In particular, I challenge the claim according to which guilt can function as part of our epistemic justification of positive retributivism, that is, the view that wrongdoing is both necessary and sufficient to justify punishment. I show that the argument to this conclusion rests on two premises: (1) to feel guilty typically involves the judgment that one deserves punishment; and (2) those who feel guilty after wrongdoing are more virtuous (or less vicious) than those who do not. I shall argue that premise (1) is false on both empirical and conceptual grounds and that there are no particularly good grounds supporting this premise (2). Finally, I consider and reject the claim that anger, as opposed to guilt, can afford the type of epistemic justification needed by positive retributivism.
Keywords Guilt, Anger, Emotion, Criminal Law, Punishment, Retribution
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DOI 10.1017/S1352325210000066
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References found in this work BETA
Nico H. Frijda (1986). The Emotions. Cambridge University Press.
Sigmund Freud (1972). Civilization and its Discontents. In John Martin Rich (ed.), Readings in the Philosophy of Education. Belmont, Calif.,Wadsworth Pub. Co.

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