Author Topic: Crime and Punishment  (Read 1895 times)

Crime and Punishment
« on: February 16, 2013, 06:35:35 PM »
The institution of punishment itself is older than the ideas which now seem to lie at the base of it, Nietzsche cites the fact that these ideas themselves are constantly varying. That is to say, the aim and purpose of punishment are conceived differently by different races and individuals. One authority calls it a means of rendering the criminal helpless and harmless and so preventing further mischief in future. Another says that it is a means of inspiring others with fear of the law and its agents. Another says that it is a device for destroying the unfit. [Interesting that criminals would be characterized this way] Another holds it to be a fee exacted by society from the evil-doer for protecting him against the excesses of private revenge. Still another looks upon it as society's declaration of war against its enemies. Yet another says that it is a scheme for making the criminal realize his guilt and repent. Nietzsche shows that all of these ideas, while true, perhaps, in some part, are fallacies at bottom. It is ridiculous, for instance, to believe that punishment makes the law-breaker acquire a feeling of guilt and sinfulness. He sees that he was indiscreet in committing his crime, but he sees, too, that society's method of punishing his indiscretion consists in committing a crime of the same sort against him. In other words, he cannot hold his own crime a sin without also holding his punishment a sin - which leads to an obvious absurdity. As a matter of fact, says Nietzsche, punishment really does nothing more than "augment fear, intensify prudence and subjugate the passions." And in so doing it tames man, but does not make him better. If he refrains from crime in future, it is because he has become more prudent and not because he has become more moral. If he regrets his crimes of the past, it is because his punishment, and not his so-called conscience, hurts him.

Thoughts?
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Offline bennyboy

Re: Crime and Punishment
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2013, 09:06:00 PM »
Let's look at this on 2 axes: 1) the ability of a person to feel remorse; 2) the ability of the person to choose their actions.

If a person cannot exert his mind to control his behavior, then remorse will aggravate him, making him MORE likely to commit a crime.  A husband who beats his wife and hates himself for doing so is an example.  And if she points out the flaws which make him hate himself, or threatens to leave him, it will almost for sure aggravate the behavior.

If a person is not able to feel remorse, then obviously remorse is irrelevant.  If he is able to think and choose his actions, he will weight the benefit vs. the potential cost of those actions, and commit his crime if he sees an advantage.  If he is unable to think and feel, then he's not really a human: neither guilt nor self-interest will modify his animal behaviors.

If a person CAN feel guilt, and CAN think about his behavior before commiting a crime, then he has a chance.  But the obvious question is this: if he has this ability, why has he commited a crime in the first place?  It is his world view, and his priorities, which led to a bad decision.  Putting him in an environment where he's surrounded by psychopaths and where his priority is to avoid rape or murder is unlikely to improve his future behaviors.


In the end, the success and type of punishment depends more on the ability of law enforcement to assess which of these 4 categories a person falls into.  But good luck with that.
Insanity is the only sensible response to the universe.  The sane are just making stuff up.

Offline AllPurposeAtheist

Re: Crime and Punishment
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2013, 09:22:14 PM »
From most members of society punishment is mere vengence, but vengence merely reinforces vengence more often than not making a more vengeful criminal. Once released, unless heavily counseled to see there is another path most inmates go right back to whence they came, The US system is a built in trap to basically enslave inmates, often for life whether they're remorseful or not.
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Offline Sal1981

(No subject)
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2013, 10:53:43 PM »
Punishment fails. It fails both as a deterrent and as a reformation of the punished. Even with looming threats of punishment accosting some desired moral behavior, people go out and do immoral deeds anyways.

For the most part, when it's intended, it's because there exists a divide between personal moral 'compass' and ethics. People murder out of jealousy, or they rob banks for personal gain, or they download copyrighted material :P

What needed is some sort of estimate of harm in our social calculation; motive on one side and affect on the other. What was intention behind an action and what was that actions affect in a sort of harm calculation.

Punishment in this scope is all about increasing harm done, increasing net harm via revenge. To me, revenge is an inefficient, impractical way of dealing with ethical issues. Sure, if you want to "protect" society as a whole you can just separate the caught from society into neat little cubicles for years on end; which only postpones harm to other people, as far as I can see.

Ideally, people in a society would learn the current societies accepted moral behavior based on harm minimization. Strictly educational. That's the first stop-gap. Failing that, rehabilitation. If people are repeat offenders and cause harm repeatedly then obviously something is wrong on either side, be it the system in which they're brought up, or the system itself.

There are a lot of factors that play in, and it's hard to see what the best course of action there is for someone that is immoral and causes harm to others. One factor I'd like to point out is societal and societal norms. Just the word "social unrest" is what I'm thinking here.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" --- Richard P. Feynman

Re: Crime and Punishment
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2013, 12:11:16 AM »
Quote from: "Jmpty"
. . .  Yet another says that it is a scheme for making the criminal realize his guilt and repent. . .

Thoughts?

I have noticed that many in our society, mostly the ones who have never read, or been able to comprehend Nietzsche, often confuse Discipline with Punishment.  Take, for example,  the practice of spanking a child.  This is often misconstrued as "discipline" when in fact it is punishment.  The parent that demonstrates disciplined behavior leads by example, and does not have to resort to corporal punishment.  I have seen this work in practice.
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