This article needs revision after my beliefs have changed. While I still believe that compassion should be prioritized toward the virtuous and that acts of aggression forfeit one's own rights, I no longer believe the suffering of those who have done wrong has its own value.
I've already explained why morals have to flow from conscience and can't can be derived from logic alone, so I'm not here to argue for Retribution. I'm here to refute a few of the common attempts to argue against it.
- 1: "Punishing people for their wrongdoings doesn't make them good people." (Perfect Solution Fallacy)
That's completely true. You know what else is true? Feeding starving orphans doesn't change the aspects of human nature that create poverty, so let's not do any of that either. You see? For any good action you can name another good objective that it doesn't accomplish. No action furthers every good objective. So just because there's one good thing punishing unrepentant criminals doesn't do doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.
- 2: "Punishment is often useful as a deterrent for future wrongdoings, but to do it just for the sake of some abstract idea of 'justice' is pointlessly hurting people." (Circular)
This relies on the disputed assumption that it's pointlessly hurting people. My claim is exactly that it's not pointless, so this argument is circular. Our real difference is one of axiology, which - see the above linked article - can't be logically refuted unless it can be shown to be internally inconsistent.
- 3: "Killing a murderer or being mean to someone for being mean is hypocrisy." (Circular, and hypocritical as well outside of full-on pacifism)
The principle behind my judgements is not "X is always wrong", but "doing X to an innocent person is wrong" (note that I still took out always because there's another category of exceptions). This objection assumes that people who act differently should be treated the same, which is, of course, absurd and almost everyone knows it when you spell it out. What becomes clear the more you think about this is that the problem with people who make this argument is that they don't see any difference between good and evil. They only look at methods, ignoring goals and context. They think all meanness or all violence is the same; they think your allegiance is determined by your weapon.
And beyond that, does anyone think it's hypocrisy to fine a thief? If doing what is normally wrong becomes okay because the target did it first, what is the difference? The only person who can even make this objection without contradicting themselves is a pacifist.
- 4: (Not an argument, but I enjoy ridiculing it) "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."
Yes. I'd rather live in a blind world than a world where only the oppressors have eyes.
This is also entirely false because the threat of an eye for an eye is a strong deterrent against taking someone else's eye in the first place. The result is less violence. Though to be fair for all I know the original context of this quote could've been a case for restitution over punitive retribution or allowing an obviously penitent criminal a chance at redemption, but it's thrown around in a way that suggests condemning taking the eye of someone who takes another's eye and is not attempting to make restitution.