Legal punishment as the routine infliction of suffering poses a serious challenge of justification. The challenge becomes more urgent as a number of thinkers argue that the dominant, retributivist answer fails in the light of the findings of neuroscience.
In this talk I sketch a general account of retributivist justification of punishment and the basic neuroscientific argument against it. I then explore ways of challenging the argument by modifying the retributivist account of responsibility and desert. I analyze several variations and argue that none are plausible. I conclude by suggesting one way in which the notion of criminal responsibility can be rescued, but at the theoretical cost of changing the grounds of justification.