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What an impressive lineup! Wish I could be there--but I hope there are reports/papers posted here.

For those against retributive punishment, are any known to be "reluctant" in their position?

i.e. ideally they would be a supporter of the retributive theory; but they just don't think you can make sense of free will/moral responsibility and so therefore retribution becomes an unfair kind of justice system.

Or do opponents nearly always have a moral instinct against it just on principle? So regardless of what sense you can make of free will and responsibilty for actions, it's just wrong to inflict suffering for its own sake.


As John has voiced many times before on this blog, when one regards the question of plausible agents who deserve serious consideration for punishment--like the Boston bombers--even semi-compatibilism supports that. My own take is that while such stances are first-person intelligible--we cannot wash ourselves clean of emotion from such a perspective--when we aspire to take more objective stances where the value of the individual is quashed by the (utilitarian?) values of larger perspectives--things like constitutive luck loom large. Even as we recognize the tension of those two stances--and thus a tug of "reluctance" to identify with the more objective stance--the question then is whether argumentative force stands with the individual stance or the more objective one. I suspect the question of argumentative force between these stances then steps up to questions about world-views and associated values.

Hi Greg (my one-'g'-less doppelgänger),

I'm not sure how many "relucant" anti-retributivists there are out there, but I imagine there are some. Perhaps Michael Corrado is one. He sometimes writes as if things would have been easier if retributive punishment was justified, but since it is not we need to find an alternative. For myself, I cannot honestly say what came first. I think I first came to the conclusion that free will does not exist and only then began to think about the implications for criminal punishment. I now feel, however, that there are dual reasons for rejecting retributivism: its lack of philosophical justification and pragmatic reasons.

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