Private, Public, and Punitive Blame

Leora Dahan Katz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter addresses a broad trend in the literature on blame, taken up in John Gardner’s later work, which suggests that if blame is to be endorsed it must be safely divorced from punishment, its brutal brother-in-arms. The chapter examines Gardner’s particular defence of blame and blaming, and its accompanying rejection of reproach and punishment. It suggests that the position Gardner motions towards-in defence of private, attitudinal blame and in opposition to public blame-is an unstable one. It proposes that we can nonetheless make sense of Gardner’s attraction to the suggested view if we recognize the essentially punitive nature of public blame despite efforts in the literature to deny this. The chapter argues, however, that accepting the punitivity of blame does not mean we should come out against public blame, as intimated by Gardner. Rather, attending to the excesses and pathologies of public blame, we can proceed with the necessary caution with respect to blaming practices while defending not only the significance of private blame, but that of public blame as well. The chapter suggests that Gardner would thus have done well to push his reconsidered position even further, in defence not only of private blame, but of public blame as well.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationFrom Morality to Law and Back Again
Subtitle of host publicationA Liber Amicorum for John Gardner
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780191892639
ISBN (Print)9780198860594
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© the many contributors 2023.


  • Scanlon
  • blame (expressed, pathological, private, public, punitive, Scanlonian, scepticism)
  • blameworthiness
  • communicative accounts (of blame)
  • interpersonal relations
  • punishment
  • reproach
  • responsibility (basic)
  • transparency
  • wrongdoing


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