The Moral Worth of Retribution
Retributivism is view that it is a sufficient reason for us to have punishment institutions—and for people to use those institutions to mete out a particular punishment to a particular person on a particular occasion—that the person deserve to be punished. Such sufficiency is construed as not merely giving our government the right to punish the guilty, but also and more importantly, as giving us the obligation to set up and support institutions to achieve such retributive justice. Retributivism, so construed, joins corrective justice theories of torts, natural right theories of property, and promissory theories of contract as alternatives to utilitarian justifications; in each case, the institutions and applications of punishment, tort compensation, property, and contract are justified by the rightness or fairness of the institution/application in question, not by the good consequences each may generate. To respond adequately to the genetic fallacy objection, anti-retributivist must establish that emotional base of a moral judgement is relevant to that judgement’s truth.