Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 425–438 | Cite as

Duties, Desert, and the Justification of Punishment

  • Dana Kay NelkinEmail author
Original Paper


In this essay, I assess what I call the “Duty View,” subtly articulated and defended by Victor Tadros in Wrongs and Crimes (Oxford University Press, 2016). According to the Duty View, wrongdoers incur enforceable duties, including the duty to be punished in some circumstances, in virtue of their wrongdoing; therefore, punishment can be justified simply on the ground that wrongdoers’ duties are being legitimately enforced. I argue that, while wrongdoers do incur important duties, these are not necessarily fulfilled by providing protection against future offenses, and I offer a comparative evaluation of the Duty View and an alternative approach, which I call the “Desert Plus View.” The Desert Plus View shares some of the key commitments of the Duty View, such as the rejection of the intrinsic goodness of wrongdoers getting what they deserve. More positively, however, according to the Desert Plus View, the fact that people are deserving can, together with certain additional conditions, such as the need for protection of its citizens, provide a reason for the state to give them what they deserve.


Punishment Enforceable duty Desert Wrongdoing Responsibility 



Many thanks to Derk Pereboom, Massimo Renzo, and Samuel Rickless for very helpful comments on previous versions of this essay.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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