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Andrei Poama for PLOS ONE: Does suffering suffice?

Does suffering suffice? Andrei Poama, Assistant Professor at Leiden University, and Paul C. Bauer, research fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, did an experimental assessment of desert retributivism. Their resulsts were published on April 20 on PLOS ONE.

Andrei Poama and Paul C. Bauer
20 April 2020

Michael S. Moore is among the most prominent normative theorists to argue that retributive justice, understood as the deserved suffering of offenders, justifies punishment. Moore claims that the principle of retributive justice is pervasively supported by our judgments of justice and sufficient to ground punishment. We offer an experimental assessment of these two claims, (1) the pervasiveness claim, according to which people are widely prone to endorse retributive judgments, and (2) the sufficiency claim, according to which no non-retributive principle is necessary for justifying punishment. We test these two claims in a survey and a related survey experiment in which we present participants (N = ~900) with the stylized description of a criminal case. Our results seem to invalidate claim (1) and provide mixed results concerning claim (2). We conclude that retributive justice theories which advance either of these two claims need to reassess their evidential support.

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