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Can the Law Do Without Retributivism? Comments on Erin Kelly’s The Limits of Blame


Erin Kelly’s The Limits of Blame presents a critique of our current overly-punitive legal system and champions a system of criminal justice that does not traffic in moral blame and is free of retributivist elements. This commentary questions the viability of such a system, and ultimately suggests that there is not much distance between a more perfect retributivist system and the kind of nuanced and humane system of criminal justice that Kelly envisions.

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This publication was made possible through the support of a joint grant from the John Templeton Foundation and the Fetzer Institute. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation or the Fetzer Institute.


The funding was provided by National Institutes of Health (US) (Grant No. 1RF1MH117813) and John Templeton Foundation.

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Correspondence to Adina L. Roskies.

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Roskies, A.L. Can the Law Do Without Retributivism? Comments on Erin Kelly’s The Limits of Blame. Criminal Law, Philosophy 15, 217–222 (2021).

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  • Retributivism
  • Blame
  • Punishment
  • Deterrence
  • Justice
  • Moral responsibility