We’ve all experienced the desire for revenge, whether it be when some jerk cuts you off in traffic or you discover that your partner has been cheating on you. Wanting revenge when you’ve been wronged is a natural human response. The question we’re asking this week is whether this desire for payback is something we ought to act on. Is revenge ever the moral thing to do?
What is it
We are often taught that vengeance is a reprehensible or unworthy motivation and that, as a result, pursuing revenge should not be the method of choice when meting out punishment for crimes. Incarceration and other penalties, according to this view, can only be justified in as much as they protect society, rehabilitate criminals, or deter further crime. But are these approaches to punishment really more just than the retributive or vengeance model? Don’t the victims of crime deserve some kind of payback for their suffering? Are justice and revenge in conflict with one another, or do they actually go hand in hand? John and Ken trade favors with Thane Rosenbaum from the Fordham Law School, author of Payback: The Case For Revenge.