Should we punish a remorseful offender? Punishment within a theory of symbolic restoration

  • Tine Vandendriessche


This paper tackles the question whet her we should punish a remorseful offender. Traditional retributive and consequentialist theories on punishment are struggling with the question of the justification of punishment, but I think a more basic question needs to be solved first; namely, how can we interpret the practice of punishment. I state that a theory of symbolic restoration can help us to understand the meaning of this practice. A theory of symbolic restoration depends on an expressivist account of punishment, like Joel Feinberg’s. Expressivism gives us an insight into the importance of the feeling of moral condemnation and it is this feeling that gives rise to the longing for punishment and remorse. Because of moral condemnation after a crime we ask for punishment and expect some kind of remorse. The question is whether punishment can be exchanged for remorse and I argue that in certain cases it cannot. The punishment of a remorseful offender is, I argue, – in certain cases – justified.

South African Journal of Philosophy 2014, 33(2): 113–119

Author Biography

Tine Vandendriessche
Institute of Philosophy, Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, KU Leuven, Belgium

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0258-0136