The problem addressed in this paper is of the crucial difference between justice and revenge. Following the vivid images of revenge and justice present in literature, I argue that revenge is rooted in a reactive, backward-looking spirit which is destructive for both individuals and the community. Justice, on the other hand, is rooted in an active, forward-looking spirit which is constructive and aimed at restoring order. I analyze the different functions of punishment which are based on payback and are thus focused on the balance of power and status which is more typical for revenge than justice. Retribution should be based on a normative balance rooted in norms and values, and which is aimed at promoting accountability. Anger transformed by justice should be focused on wrongdoing (the act), rather than the wrongdoer (person). Justice in its highest degree, when complemented by mercy, becomes ‘ justice as generosity’ which is able to restore trust in social relations, fostering solidarity and reconciliation in society.

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