Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory


"Peter Lewisch"

Titel: Altruistic Punishment: The Golden Keystone of Human Cooperation and Social Stability?
Autor: Peter Lewisch
Seite: 255-283

‘Altruistic punishment’ (i.e., costly punishment that serves no instrumental goal for the punisher) could serve, as suggested by the pertinent experimental literature, as a powerful enforcer of social norms. This paper discusses foundations, extensions, and, in particular, limits and open questions of this concept—and it does so mostly based on experimental evidence provided by the author. Inter alia, the paper relates the (standard) literature on negative emotions as a trigger of second party punishment to more recent experimental findings on the phenomenon of ‘spontaneous cooperation’ and ‘spontaneous punishment’ and demonstrates its (tight) emotional basis. Furthermore, the paper discusses the potential for free riding on altruistic punishment. While providing valuable insights into the understanding of social order, ‘altruistic punishment’ is thus not the golden keystone of social stability.

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