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Retribution, Forgiveness, and the Character Creation Theory Response

The greatest meaning of philosophy is gathered around opportunity to take new, unexpected look at sides of human being, which seem widely adopted and undoubted. Retributivism, as the derivative from entire philosophical doctrine, is useful to confirm this fact. Appropriate direction make us familiar with different points about the nature of punishment institution. In fact, the modern humankind adheres the consequence doctrine, however, there are original thoughts, which are capable to oppose this approach. Seemingly, the creation character theory worth to be called the most interesting one. Katherin A. Rogers in her “Retribution, forgiveness, and the character creation theory of punishment” is well encouraged to support this statement. Let’s take some view on the main ideas from the article to response them.

What is the main thought of character creation theory of punishment? Speaking Frankly, it is positioned as “present-looking theory”, instead of today implemented “past-looking” one. According to Katherin A. Rogers, the fact of offend committing, as the ground for punishment providing, should be replaced by offender moral character evaluation at the present time. In other words, the criminal past of certain personality is much less relevant than condition of his/her internal world: “In the course of building your character, it seems possible to repudiate past wrongdoing, to regret it so deeply and hate it so utterly that it no longer casts its shadow over you. It seems possible to convert from being wicked to being good. And since it is moral status that grounds desert, and the good do not deserve suffering, genuine repentance should lesson or negate punishment” (Rogers, 15). The main thought is devoted to intention of evil, instead of wrong act, punishment. This theory has two main derivatives to be considered – reducing judging state’s authorities and forgiveness through repentance: “State cannot creates universal justice. The state, in pursuing its legitimate goals, is authorized to punish for the wickedness produced only by certain crimes. It is not permitted to inflict suffering for wickedness that lies outside its mandate”(Rogers, 9); “If the offender is known to be truly and fully repentant, then forgiveness seems in order” (Rogers, 19).

Clearing all above placed ideas was needful to take own response to analyzed theory. There is no secret that creation character theory met large portion of critics, and author is adequate to response the most relevant cons about it: probable faking of repentance, difficulties about moral character evaluation etc. Answers to all these problematic issues seem to be well grounded and reasonable. However, one incredibly important point wasn’t placed into the article. This point is devoted to prevention, as the main function of punishment institution. The entire discussion about the retribution in this paper is devoted to the revenge for committed evil. On the other hand, there is no mention about prevention as inherent and essential part of punishment concept. Obviously, this issue considering can be doubtful in respect to “retribution” as the main direction of text. However, the partial approach to doctrinal issues seems to be inappropriate. In this order, let’s remind well known axiom – 9 of 10 people do not committee crimes, because of fear to be punished. What does generate this fear in fact? Norms of social regulation is the only answer indeed. Traditionally, all of them are divided into three main branches – religion, morality and law. It is important that the last one is the only that contains strict prescribed sanction in itself. The function of sanction can be compared to guard dog who does not let you in strange ownership. Standing in front of this dog, you see him clearly and think twice whether violate rule or not, as negative consequences are clear and obvious. What if we’d take this dog away? Seemingly, doubts before offend committing would be much less. This idiom was placed to show out the relevance of prescribed by state sanction as the most useful solution to prevent offenses. In this regard, next words from the article can be strongly opposed: “Our intuitions, our legal system, and our philosophical thinking about punishment are imbued with moral assumptions. Though the business of government may be to protect rights and keep order, the question of moral right and wrong cannot really be bracketed” (Rogers, 14). Really, only morality is useful to identify what is good or bad, but it was never featured by unified nature. Thus, state and its laws play significant role as carrier of common denominator of this morality. The point is, the creation character theory, with all its strong and persuasive sides, deprive society “not to overstep line” and does not replace it with alternative.

It has to be reminded that Katherin A. Rogers recognized that the concept of “forgiveness” and “creation character” are uncomfortable for society of liberal values, but still her ideas look very thoughtful. The response to analyzed article shouldn’t be perceived as hard critics. More likely, it can be compared to dispute aimed for truth born: “Any theory justifying punishment can be challenged to defend its purpose as worth the cost in innocent suffering” (Rogers, 21).



Rogers, Katherin A.(2007). “Retribution, forgiveness, and the character creation theory of punishment”, p.25. Social Theory and Practice. FindArticles.com. 05 May, 2011. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6395/is_1_33/ai_n29330833/