Department of Political Science

Weighing Relative and Absolute Proportionality in Punishment

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingBook chapterResearch

Conflicts between relative and absolute proportionality are an important puzzle facing retributivist thought. The question of how those conflicts should be handled has long been neglected. Relative proportionality refers to the ideal that punishments should be comparatively fair among offenders. Absolute proportionality refers to the ideal that punishments should be fitting, that is, neither too harsh nor too lenient. The two senses of proportionality contribute independently to the ideal of proportionality. Thus, it is not plausible to resolve conflicts between them by dropping one of them. Instead, the two senses of proportionality must be weighed. Recent literature about comparative and noncomparative desert provides some guidance for how the two types of proportionality should be weighed. If the two types of proportionality are of roughly equal moral weight, then our greater ability to reliably satisfy relative proportionality gives us some reason to give priority to relative proportionality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOf One-Eyed and Toothless Miscreants : Making the Punishment Fit the Crime?
EditorsMichael Tonry
Number of pages21
Place of publicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication year15 Nov 2019
ISBN (print)9780190070595
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019
SeriesStudies in Crime and Public Policy

    Research areas

  • cardinal proportionality, ordinal proportionality, relative proportionality, absolute proportionality, desert

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ID: 173006971