Justice Without Retribution: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Stakeholder Views and Practical Implications

Farah Focquaert*, Gregg Caruso, Elizabeth Shaw, Derk Pereboom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


'Free will skepticism’ refers to a family of views that all take seriously the possibility that human beings lack the control in action, that is, the free will, required for moral responsibility in a particular but pervasive sense. This sense is typically set apart by the notion of basic desert and is defined by Derk Pereboom as follows:

For an agent to be morally responsible for an action in the basic desert sense is for it to belong to her in such a way that she would deserve blame if she understood that it was morally wrong, and she would deserve credit or perhaps praise if she understood that it was morally exemplary. The desert invoked here is basic in the sense that the agent, to be morally responsible, would deserve the blame or credit just because she has performed the action, given sensitivity to its moral status, and not by virtue of consequentialist or contractualist considerations. ([1, 2]; cf. 3)

Some free will skeptics wholly reject this notion of moral responsibility because they believe it to be incoherent or impossible. Others maintain that, though possible, our best philosophical and scientific theories about the world provide strong and compelling reasons for adopting skepticism about free will and basic desert moral responsibility. What all varieties of free will skepticism share, however, is the belief that the requirements for basic desert moral responsibility and the practices associated with it—such as backward-looking praise and blame, punishment and reward, and the reactive attitudes of resentment and indignation—are not met.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-3
Number of pages3
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The papers contained in this special issue were first presented at the third in a series of conferences organized by the Justice Without Retribution Network. The conference was held at Ghent University on June 2-3, 2017 and was co-sponsored by the Bioethics Institute Ghent. The Justice Without Retribution Network is a joint effort of the University of Aberdeen School of Law, which houses the network, Cornell University, Ghent University, and SUNY Corning and is co-directed by Elizabeth Shaw, Gregg Caruso, Farah Focquaert, and Derk Pereboom. The network brings together leading scholars and promising early career researchers from law, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to investigate whether non-retributive approaches to criminal behavior are ethically defensible and practically workable. For more information on the network, visit our website.1


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