Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 661–679 | Cite as

Bennett’s Expressive Justification of Punishment

  • Peter ChauEmail author
Original Paper


In this paper, I will critically assess the expressive justification of punishment recently offered by Christopher Bennett in The Apology Ritual and a number of papers. I will first draw a distinction between three conceptions of expression: communicative, motivational, and symbolic. After briefly demonstrating the difficulties of using the first two conceptions of expression to ground punishment and showing that Bennett does not ultimately rely on those two conceptions, I argue that Bennett’s account does not succeed because he fails to establish the following claims: (1) punishment is the only symbolically adequate response to a wrongdoing; and (2) punishment is permissible if it is the only symbolically adequate response to a wrongdoing.


Punishment Expression Christopher Bennett The Apology Ritual Retributivism 



I am grateful to Cora Chan, Frank Choi, Nicole Standen-Mills, and an anonymous reviewer for the journal for their helpful comments. This work was supported by GRF Grant 17612315 from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council and I am grateful for the financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsOxford UniversityOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of LawThe University of Hong KongPok Fu LamHong Kong

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