Retributive justice?
Posted: 15 May 2006 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]
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[Retributive justice: the idea that people who do bad/evil things should be punished even if that punishment could have no societal or personal benefit to them or anyone else].

Hello Bob,

Now we’re getting somewhere. I have moved this thread from here (on Free Will and Humanism) to a new thread on justice ... since they appear to be separate topics.

[quote:a13c4ce483=“Robert Gulack”]Within the context of compatibilism, without assuming anything more about ethics than that we have a duty to minimize crime, we could find ourselves driven to embrace deterrence.  This is what I have been characterizing as "compatibilist deterrence," and, as you point out, it does raise issues about why we fail to punish lunatics.  I think there are answers to such complications that don’t require us to embrace any form of culpability beyond compatibilist deterrence.[/quote:a13c4ce483]

It seems to me that deterrence stops at the point where the person being deterred is incapable of understanding the punishment, as in the case of a lunatic. I’m not sure that punishing an insane person for murder really deters the rest of us. On the other hand, punishing someone for killing his neighbor for money, does seem to me to have deterrent value. It shows that such a crime doesn’t pay. The lunatic isn’t really trying to get "paid" ... he’s just crazy.

[quote:a13c4ce483=“Robert Gulack”]Within the context of compatibilism, if we are willing to complicate our ethical assumptions further, we COULD, in principle, circle a subset of causal phenomena and say that people exhibiting such phenomena had lost some degree of their ethical right not to be subjected to suffering.  And we could also say the same subset "personally deserved" to suffer.  So, in that sense, you’re quite right to say that a compatibilist COULD choose to believe in culpability in these two additional senses.  My argument is such a choice would be immoral in terms of either the Golden Rule, Rawlsian ethics, utilitarian ethics, OR my own personal one-soul system.[/quote:a13c4ce483]

OK, now that we’ve gotten the issue about free will out of the way, what are the arguments from these sources that show retribution to be immoral? I understand how it is immoral on utilitarian ethics: that makes obvious sense, since the utilitarian would never countenance causing pain for the mere sake of punishment, without any concomitant increase in pleasure. I don’t see how the Golden Rule or Rawls would necessarily rule out retribution, but would be interested to hear the arguments.

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Posted: 15 May 2006 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Retributive justice?

[Retributive justice: the idea that people who do bad/evil things should be punished even if that punishment could have no societal or personal benefit to them or anyone else].

Hello Bob,

Now we’re getting somewhere. I have moved this thread from here (on Free Will and Humanism) to a new thread on justice ... since they appear to be separate topics.

[quote author=“Robert Gulack”]Within the context of compatibilism, without assuming anything more about ethics than that we have a duty to minimize crime, we could find ourselves driven to embrace deterrence.  This is what I have been characterizing as “compatibilist deterrence,” and, as you point out, it does raise issues about why we fail to punish lunatics.  I think there are answers to such complications that don’t require us to embrace any form of culpability beyond compatibilist deterrence.

It seems to me that deterrence stops at the point where the person being deterred is incapable of understanding the punishment, as in the case of a lunatic. I’m not sure that punishing an insane person for murder really deters the rest of us. On the other hand, punishing someone for killing his neighbor for money, does seem to me to have deterrent value. It shows that such a crime doesn’t pay. The lunatic isn’t really trying to get “paid” ... he’s just crazy.

[quote author=“Robert Gulack”]Within the context of compatibilism, if we are willing to complicate our ethical assumptions further, we COULD, in principle, circle a subset of causal phenomena and say that people exhibiting such phenomena had lost some degree of their ethical right not to be subjected to suffering.  And we could also say the same subset “personally deserved” to suffer.  So, in that sense, you’re quite right to say that a compatibilist COULD choose to believe in culpability in these two additional senses.  My argument is such a choice would be immoral in terms of either the Golden Rule, Rawlsian ethics, utilitarian ethics, OR my own personal one-soul system.

OK, now that we’ve gotten the issue about free will out of the way, what are the arguments from these sources that show retribution to be immoral? I understand how it is immoral on utilitarian ethics: that makes obvious sense, since the utilitarian would never countenance causing pain for the mere sake of punishment, without any concomitant increase in pleasure. I don’t see how the Golden Rule or Rawls would necessarily rule out retribution, but would be interested to hear the arguments.

Best,

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Posted: 15 May 2006 08:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Re: Retributive justice?

Dear Doug:

I’m not advocating this as a policy but, under our current system, people (such as the “Diaper Don”) who are apparently feigning insanity, may avoid criminal punishment.  Surely knowing that lunatics, too, would face criminal sanctions would increase deterrence by letting people know that no pretension to insanity could get them off the hook.  Once again, the key fact is not the complexity of understanding of the victim of exemplary punishment, but the complexity of understanding of the people HEARING ABOUT the exemplary punishment; and these two sets are not necessarily identical in nature.

The Golden Rule argument against retributivism rests on the fact that (as Justice Holmes put it), while we often find it difficult to forgive other people, we nearly always find it possible to forgive ourselves. 

The Rawlsian argument against retributivism is very similar to the utilitarian argument against it.  Retributivism poses a risk of worsening the position of those worst off, for no reason that guarantees any kind of advantage to the worst off.

People can read my lecture, HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, at ethicalfocus.org, if they wish to see why my own personal system of ethics also comes out against retributivism, but the reasons are very similar to those we’ve already discussed.

In short, retributivism stands condemned by every generally accepted system of ethics, and yet is endorsed by almost everyone except Martin Luther King, Jr., and me.

BOB GULACK

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Posted: 16 May 2006 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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:idea:

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 16 May 2006 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“theatheistheretic”]:idea:

:?:

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Posted: 16 May 2006 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I just find this topic interesting.  So what do you believe the justice system should do to criminals?

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Posted: 16 May 2006 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[quote author=“theatheistheretic”]I just find this topic interesting.  So what do you believe the justice system should do to criminals?

Check out my lecture, HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG (at ethicalfocus.org), for a comprehensive new theory of criminal justice, once revenge has been taken out of the mix.
BOB GULACK

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Posted: 16 May 2006 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[quote author=“theatheistheretic”]I just find this topic interesting.  So what do you believe the justice system should do to criminals?

Personally, as I say, I am not sure as to whether or not “retributivism” is true. At the very least, criminals should be isolated from society so that they cannot harm others. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, it would also be very useful if criminals could somehow be “rehabilitated”, so that when they re-entered society they would no longer be prone to criminal activity. That said, there are clearly many cases of criminals who are not likely to be rehabilitated. And as a matter of fact, many jails tend to inculcate petty criminals into a larger society of crime, by introducing them to more hardened types.

But that said, I am not an expert on criminal justice or incarceration. Honestly, I think before I would hazard an educated guess on all this I would want to learn from people who knew about it firsthand.

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Posted: 16 May 2006 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dear Doug:

Frankly, I studied this topic at Yale Law School, and I’m not sure I know more about it than what you said in your post.  As people will see if they take a look at HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG (at ethicalfocus.org), my theory is very close to what you just posted.

BOB GULACK

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Posted: 20 May 2006 04:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The compatibilist who advocates an ethical theory including retributivism should consider this point:

As one increases in complexity from mud to frog to human, there is, indeed, an increased ability to form interior imagery of what is going on in the outside world.  But there is also an increased ability to become the conduit by which prior outside influences inescapably trigger the motive to do wrong things.

Why is it so clear that those who have suffered the bad luck of being forced to desire the wrong, should also suffer the misfortune of retributive punishment?

Consider the following choice: would you prefer being born without legs or being born Hitler?  I would have preferred being born without legs to being born with such a crippled soul.  This helps to convey how horrifying a misfortune it is to be caused to do evil, and should help us understand that it adds as little to justice to visit further harm upon those who are morally crippled as it would to visit further harm upon those who are physically crippled.

ROBERT GULACK

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Posted: 20 May 2006 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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[quote author=“Robert Gulack”]Consider the following choice: would you prefer being born without legs or being born Hitler?  I would have preferred being born without legs to being born with such a crippled soul.  This helps to convey how horrifying a misfortune it is to be caused to do evil, and should help us understand that it adds as little to justice to visit further harm upon those who are morally crippled as it would to visit further harm upon those who are physically crippled.

This is an interesting argument, Bob, and reminds me of an argument for Socratic ethics that we learned in grad school. In short, the idea is that everyone desires the Good (even Hitler); what distinguishes good people from bad people is simply a lack of knowledge ... knowledge, presumably, about the best way to achieve the Good.

This sort of analysis also lead him to reject retribution.

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Posted: 28 October 2006 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Doug , right, although I wonder about Hitler. What you say goes with soft determinism . You do good work here! :!:

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 08 December 2006 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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A Clear-Headed take on Punishment and Retribution

Sample of essay found at:  

...the only possible institution of punishment that can be right is one that is given over to the aim of getting people out of bad lives and keeping them from falling into bad lives ... our existing institutions of punishment, more or less from the ground up, are without moral justification and are wrong. Those mild epithets reveal something that is in need of further attention and resistance. It is the new extent to which the language of moral denunciation has become the property of those who use it only to denounce some terrorism, usually not including state-terrorism, and some well-chosen tyrannies, and like things that do not serve our self-interest ... Let me be a little more explicit about our punishment systems. The American and British ones, to concentrate on them, have in them an element of retributivism that involves such confusions as noticed above in (1) to (6) and also the grim desire for the distress of others as an end.  To this is added a much larger consequentialist element.  The systems have the goal, about which no conspiracy theory is needed, of defending and advancing a way of life, one that includes hierarchic democracy and a kind of capitalism. That way of life, from the proper viewpoint of the principle of humanity, as you can begin by saying, is indefensible.

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