Internal WiP: Dr Victoria McGeer

Why do we punish? Confronting the myth of folk retributivism

Dr Victoria McGeer, Princeton University and Australian National University (OUC Academic Visitor)

Converging lines of research in behavioural economics and social psychology indicate that human beings are strongly motivated to punish wrongdoers, even at cost to themselves. But why do we punish? One influential view is that we have a ‘brutely retributive’ moral psychology – i.e. it is part of our species nature to embrace the ‘backward-looking’ norm that wrongdoers should be punished because, and only because, of the wrong they have done.  In this talk, I present evidence that reveals a forward-looking transformative dimension to the moral psychology of punishment. This argues against the ‘brute retributivist’ view.  In its place, I propose a complex model of our blaming moral psychology that nevertheless accommodates what appear to be deep and persistent retributive features.  I conclude by considering some normative implications that may be drawn from this research.

Venue: Petrov Room, FHI, Suite 5 Littlegate House

Booking: not required – internal only

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