Foundations Of A Kantian Retributivism

Part of the Library of Ethics And Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 9)

Immanuel Kant is usually considered to be the philosopher whose view on punishment most exemplifies retributivism. At the very least, his words on punishment are paradigmatically retributivist. For if there is one thing Kant holds it is that criminal guilt deserves punishment, regardless of considerations of social utility. Does Kant have anything further than this to say about punishment? If so, do his ideas about punishment amount to a theory of punishment? Is there a plausible Kantian theory of punishment?

The significance of my reconstruction of Kant’s ideas on punishment is that it succeeds in meeting (or goes a long way in doing so) each of the above conditions of a theory of punishment. This renders dubious the claim that there is probably not a theory of punishment in the Rechtslehre or in the Kantian corpus as a whole. It also succeeds in casting Kant’s view in a strengthened version, one that evades certain criticisms of Kant’s position. In so doing, it increases the plausibility of Kant’s account. This holds even though I articulate some problem areas for a Kantian theory of punishment, some of which seem to find no easy answer in Kant’s writings on justice or virtue.


Criminal Liability Categorical Imperative Criminal Punishment Imperfect Duty Perfect Duty 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V 2009

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