Consider this valid argument:
- If you deserve F from me, then F is owed[note 1] by me to you. (Premise)
- If I owe F to you, then F is good for you. (Premise)
- Therefore, if you deserve punishment from me, then punishment is good for you. (By 1 and 2)
Are the premises true? Where F is a reward or praise, (1) is true. There is some plausibility to the idea that the structure of punishment mirrors that of praise, and if so then (1) is true at least in the case where F is punishment, which is all I need for the argument.
Premise (2) has something plausible about it. How could I owe you a negative debt—that would be a case of your owing me something?
Here is another argument. Start with the following assumption:
- It is wrong to intentionally impose an overall harm on another when nobody has a non-Cambridge benefit from this harm. (Premise)
I do incline to the view that retributive punishment is non-instrumentally good for the person punished. I am suspicious of the first argument—it's too easy—and the second might be question-begging against many opponents. But I wanted to put these arguments out there.