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Retribution, proportionality and retributivism

Martin, Robert Edward; (1998) Retribution, proportionality and retributivism. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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I consider a number of characterizations of retribution and reject all on the grounds that none of them substantively meets the requirement of simple proportionality, viz. that the more blameworthy an agent or the more immoral his action the greater the distress inflicted on him should be. I then formulate a concept of retribution based on equivalence where this latter relation is understood to hold between certain properties of blameworthinesses or immoral actions on the one hand and properties of distressing actions (putative retributions) on the other. These properties are given rankings within special sets, maximal sets. A large part of the thesis is then given over to an analysis of this suggested equivalence and its deficiencies. I then introduce further criteria for an equivalence relation definitive of retribution, much of which turns on giving precise conditions for when relations involving terms like 'much greater than,' 'quite a lot greater than' and 'a little greater than' are to hold. These conditions make much use of relations between certain subsets elements of which are ordered in a particular way. These relations pose problems, notably two: cases where the truth-value of claims involving them cannot be ascertained, and cases where the size of maximal sets cannot be estimated. Finally, with our concept of retribution fully explicated, I consider certain retributivist accounts of the justification of retributive punishment, where this latter is understood as punishment which meets certain criteria given for retribution, but all of these are found to be unsatisfactory. Thus, somewhat parallel to Cottingham's demonstration that many retributivisms don't offer justifications of punishment based on the etymological root of retribution qua repayment, I show that such retributivisms don't offer justifications of retributive punishment where this latter concept is explicated in terms of what underpins the idea of repayment: equivalence.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Retribution, proportionality and retributivism
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Retributive punishment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106252
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