Dr. Mark Pickering, “Against the Hybrid Interpretation of Kant’s Theory of Punishment”, Journal Article

Against the Hybrid Interpretation of Kant’s Theory of Punishment 

Dr. Mark Pickering (The University of Alabama)

Article in Jahrbuch für Recht und Ethik / Annual Review of Law and Ethics 28 (2020): 115-133


Immanuel Kant appears to make both retributivist and consequentialist statements about criminal punishment in the Metaphysical Foundations of the Doctrine of Right. In recent decades, some scholars have argued that Kant’s theory of criminal punishment is a hybrid of consequentialism and retributivism. B. Sharon Byrd’s interpretation is the most influential version of this view. I argue that the textual evidence in favor of the consequentialist side of the hybrid interpretation is weak and the evidence in favor of the retributivist side is non-existent. There are also passages that contradict the interpretation. I conclude that the hybrid interpretation should be abandoned.