A challenge confronting the study of punishment in contemporary society is the
justification of the institution concerned with the deliberate infliction of suffering on an offender.
Most of these justifications have been anchored on either of two competing theories, namely the
utilitarian and retributivist theories of punishment to the neglect of integrative notion of
punishment found among the Yoruba. However, these theories fail to account for some elements
necessary for an adequate conception of punishment such as proportional gravitation of
punishment and the aversion to punishing the innocent. This study, therefore, examined the
notion of punishment within the Yoruba culture, which reconciles the physical and non-physical
aspects of human existence, in order to arrive at an integrative notion of punishment.
The study adopted the hermeneutic theories of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jurgen
Habermas. Gadamer evolves an interpretive understanding based on the role of tradition and
language, while Habermas’ notion of praxis and constitutive interests provides the basis for
understanding the constitutive interests and social class structure which determines who
exercises what responsibilities in any society. These views thus provide the basis for
understanding the dimensions of punishment in Yoruba culture. It also employed the conceptual,
critical and constructive methods of philosophy. Data were collected from archival and library
materials and subjected to content analysis.
The integrative notion of punishment in Yoruba culture goes beyond the discussion of the
idea of punishment in western penology within the framework of the utilitarian-retributive
debate. It provides for a coherent interconnection among social structure, law and belief system
towards the certitude and trust making for harmonious human well- being. Nevertheless, the
offender is restitutively reconciled to himself, the victim and the community at large. This
underscores the saying that ìka tí ó se ni oba ń gé (It is the finger which offends that the king
cuts) to buttress the judicious imposition of punishment on the offender as a means of
establishing responsibility for human actions rather than disproportional gravitation of
punishment which may degenerate into further antagonism and animosity. Besides, the notion
constructively addresses the dispensing of justice in the quickest manner possible against the
formal and cold procedural nature of justice. Also, the Yoruba saying bi a ba fi owo ò
omo eni, a fi t’òsì
fà à móra (when a man beats his child with his right hand, he should draw him
to himself with his left) advances a creative and flexible human activity, whereby human beings
are amenable to change and deserve integration into the community, though the social relations
might have been breached because the crime still remains in people’s memories.
The achievement of social order is enhanced by the integrative notion of punishment in
Yoruba culture. Therefore, it is recommended that this approach should be incorporated into the
adjudicatory system in contemporary penal practice.
Edu, F (2021). An Integrative Notion of Punishment in Traditional Yoruba Culture. Afribary.com: Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://afribary.com/works/an-integrative-notion-of-punishment-in-traditional-yoruba-culture-1
Frontiers, Edu. "An Integrative Notion of Punishment in Traditional Yoruba Culture" Afribary.com. Afribary.com, 08 Apr. 2021, https://afribary.com/works/an-integrative-notion-of-punishment-in-traditional-yoruba-culture-1 . Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.
Frontiers, Edu. "An Integrative Notion of Punishment in Traditional Yoruba Culture". Afribary.com, Afribary.com, 08 Apr. 2021. Web. 14 Apr. 2021. < https://afribary.com/works/an-integrative-notion-of-punishment-in-traditional-yoruba-culture-1 >.
Frontiers, Edu. "An Integrative Notion of Punishment in Traditional Yoruba Culture" Afribary.com (2021). Accessed April 14, 2021. https://afribary.com/works/an-integrative-notion-of-punishment-in-traditional-yoruba-culture-1