Competing Conceptions of Desert: Vengeful, Deontological, and Empirical

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Book Chapter

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This chapter examines desert as a distributive principle. It considers the three conceptions of desert evident in the present debates over the propriety of desert as a distributive principle: vengeful desert, deontological desert, and empirical desert. Vengeful desert focuses upon the offense harm and victim suffering and sets the deserved punishment to match that of victim's harm and suffering. Deontological desert focuses not on the harm of the offense but on the blameworthiness of the offender. Empirical desert distributes punishment according to principles of justice derived from the community's shared intuitions. It argues that the failure to appreciate the existence of three quite distinct conceptions of desert commonly leads to confusion in the critique of desert as a principle for the distribution of criminal liability and punishment.


vengeful desert, deontological desert, empirical desert, Distributive Principle, criminal liability, punishment

Publication Title

Distributive Principles of Criminal Law: Who Should be Punished How Much