Scholars often appeal to Kant in defending a retributivist view of criminal punishment. In this paper, I join other scholars in rejecting this interpretation as insufficiently attentive to Kant’s wider theory of justice, particularly as found in the Rechtslehre, a section of the Metaphysics of Morals. I then turn to the Tugendlehre, where I examine analogies between Kant’s treatments of morality and justice. In particular, I argue that Kant’s own views about conscience and moral cognition should cause us to rethink the importance of lex talionis (an integral retributive principle) in the criminal justice system, and to adopt a more merciful attitude toward punishable criminals than we might otherwise be inclined to do. I end with a few policy proposals aimed at encouraging such moral cognition in contemporary Anglo-American criminal justice systems
William O. Douglas, venerated by some and reviled by others, was very much his own man, disdaining his colleagues on the bench and the work they produced. For him, the point of judging was simply to do justice. However, justice is not always self evident, and legal norms and values, like objectivity and stare decisis, are ignored at a high cost. Nor, as it turns out, was his carefully carved authentic persona more than a mask of lies.