Empathy for the Devil: Nature and Nurture in Restorative Justice


THE PRIMARY TASK of justice is to manage emotions (Sherman 2003). The primary emotion for justice to manage is the desire for revenge. Whether justice can manage, or even �cure� that desire depends on whether we see vengefulness as a product of nature, nurture, or both. The view that vengefulness is an emotional response �hard-wired� into all human beings suggests the hypothesis that justice can only reflect that emotion, rather than trying to cure it. The view that vengefulness, like all emotions, is highly dependent on social context suggests that justice could indeed cure vengefulness through emotionally intelligent responses to crime. Whether we think vengefulness is �natural� (Diamond 2008) therefore matters greatly for the ways in which justice treats revenge. The idea that revenge is an innate, cross-cultural constant can provide moral and social support for its excesses, even by justice itself. At worst, torture of suspected terrorists, mandatory prison for minor crimes, long prison sentences for possessing small amounts of drugs: these and other forms of social vengeance are often described by their advocates as �inevitable� or �inescapable�.






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Emotions, Crime and Justice

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