chapter  6
31 Pages

Rights and the Responsibility (Not) to Punish

Grotius begins this chapter just as he began Book I (on justice) and Book II (on war): with a definition. Punishment is "an evil (malum) of suffering which is inflicted because of an evil of action". Grotius has now outlined the difference between civil and criminal law. Civil law fits comfortably into expletive justice. On the other hand, expletive justice provides only a beginning point for punishment before giving way to attributive justice. What, then, are the true purposes of punishment? Grotius outlines three: correction, example, and satisfaction. Each purpose is ostensibly directed toward a different party: correction to the perpetrator, example to society at large, and satisfaction to the victim. However, a deeper inquiry shows that all three purposes relate to the public good. Equity arises when laws appear to conflict with one another, and it resolves the tension by referencing the first principles of nature.