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In this short comment, we respond to papers by Robinson, Kurzban, and Jones (RKJ) and by Darley, who replied to our paper, Punishment Naturalism. We align ourselves wholeheartedly with Darley’s argument that intuitions of criminal wrongdoing, while mediated by cognitive mechanisms that are largely universal, consist in evaluations that vary significantly across cultural groups. RKJ defend their finding of “universal” intuitions of “core” of criminal wrongdoing. They acknowledge, however, that their method for identifying the core excludes by design factors that predictably generate cultural variance in what behavior counts as murder, rape, theft and other “core” offenses. On this basis, we reiterate our claim that RKJ’s finding of such a “core” - while of considerable academic interest - does not have any normative or prescriptive upshot for debates about issues at the core of political contention and law-reform efforts in criminal justice - including important ones over the definitions of rape, homicide, domestic violence, and fraud.


Legal theory, criminal justice, social psychology, moral intuitions & judgments

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University of Chicago Law Review

Publication Citation

77 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1655 (2010)