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Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 355–368 | Cite as

Corrective Justice and the Possibility of Rectification

  • Seth R. M. Lazar
Article

Abstract

In this paper, I ask how – and whether – the rectification of injury at which corrective justice aims is possible, and by whom it must be performed. I split the injury up into components of harm and wrong, and consider their rectification separately. First, I show that pecuniary compensation for the harm is practically plausible, because money acts as a mediator between the damaged interest and other interests. I then argue that this is also a morally plausible approach, because it does not claim too much for compensation: neither can all harms be compensated, nor can it be said when compensation is paid that the status quo ante has been restored. I argue that there is no conceptual reason for any particular agent paying this compensation. I then turn to the wrong, and reject three proposed methods of rectification. The first aims to rectify the wrong by rectifying the harm; the second deploys punitive damages; the third, punishment. After undermining each proposal, I argue that the wrong can only be rectified by a full apology, which I disaggregate into the admission of causal and moral responsibility, repudiation of the act, reform, and, in some cases, disgorgement and reparations, which I define as a good faith effort to share the burden of the victim’s harm. I argue, further, that only the injurer herself can make a full apology, and it is not something that can be coerced by other members of society. As such, whether rectification of the wrong can be a matter of corrective justice is left an open question.

Keywords

Corrective justice Rectification Apology Harm Compensation Injury Rights Punishment Reparations 

Notes

Acknowledgments

While researching and writing this paper I benefited from the generous support of both St Peter’s College and the Department of Politics, at the University of Oxford, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Thanks also to two reviewers of this Journal for their helpful comments, and especially to David Miller, whose encouragement and criticism were integral to the development of both this paper, and the project of which it is a part.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St Peter’s College and Department of PoliticsUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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