The Survival of Retributivism in our Modern Knowledge-based World
The article discusses the development of theories of punishment in modern, more and more knowledge-based society. Are any changes foreseeable in how we rationalise expending scarce public resources on inflicting grievances on those fellow members of our society who have behaved in a manner not approved by general society?
Adherents to retributivism strive to justify criminal punishment by simply referring to the punishment as the consequence that the criminal plainly deserves and stating that there is no need to present any utilitarian justifications for applying punishments. There is already mounting evidence from research suggesting that certain objective circumstances cause predisposition of certain persons to commit crimes, and some research suggests that there are several treatments that may in some cases be more suitable in place of criminal punishments. The paper presents an attempt to appraise whether these novel approaches leave any room for retributivist ideas.
The article suggests that the more the science is able to understand why certain persons commit criminal offences and is able to find opportunities to treat these conditions, the less need there will be to think of punishments as just deserts, as what simply must be applied, without looking for any other utilitarian justification.