Morris B. Hoffman

The Punisher's Brain

The Evolution of Judge and Jury

Cambridge University Press 2014

New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Big IdeasNew Books in LawNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books Network June 11, 2014 Marshall Poe

Why do we feel guilty–and sometimes hurt ourselves–when we harm someone? Why do we become angry–and sometimes violent–when we see other people being harmed?...

Why do we feel guilty–and sometimes hurt ourselves–when we harm someone? Why do we become angry–and sometimes violent–when we see other people being harmed? Why do we forgive ourselves and others after a transgression even though “the rules” say we really shouldn’t?

In his fascinating book The Punisher’s Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Judge Morris B. Hoffman attempts to answer these questions with reference to evolutionary psychology. As a working judge, Hoffman is in an excellent position to explore the dynamics of our instincts to punish and forgive. We are, he says, evolved to punish “cheaters”–ourselves and others–so as to maintain all-important bonds of trust and cooperation. But we are also evolved not to take punishment too far. When correction becomes too costly, we forgive so as to maintain social solidarity. Listen in to our fascinating discussion.

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