Morality and the application of law. - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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Crime and prevention thereof. Loopholes, grey areas and the letter of the law.
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#14791952
Hi all, there seems to be a strange view in the world that people 'deserve' things like punishment..

In reality people are essentially not in control of who they are, what they do, not fundamentally anyway, we are all simply the products of our experiences. No one chooses their genetics, who raises them, their experiences, ultimately we have no real power in a fundamental way.
This is of course a claim, im perfectly open to anyone suggesting otherwise.

Many people find this dissolution of 'free will' (whatever thats supposed to be) to be de-humanizing or somehow absolve us of responsibility, to suggest that we have no 'purpose' or that everything is simply pointless, this seems to me to be a massive confusion.
Life for life's sake, existence for existence's sake.

If a man is born, raised and lives certain experiances that lead to him being a deeply flawed human, what does it even mean to say that he could have done otherwise? further, what on earth could it possibly mean to say that this man 'deserves' to be punished for any wrongdoings?

Of coruse we are perfectly validated by reason to prevent this man from causing harm, if a person shows themselves to be a system of thoughts and beliefs that can likely lead to actions that negatively affect the well-being of others, then tis perfectly reasonable to imprison this person, or to do anything we can to prevent that harm, but how does it make any sense to 'hate' this person? or to seek 'vengeance' upon him?

The simply fact is that if you were born with the brain of a psychopath, and raised with insufficient experiences to prevent you from causeing harm to others, then regardless of how much you think you would fight these tenancies, you simply would be a dangerous person, where does any room for personal responsibility come into it?


A note on what i mean by responsibility: people are not ultimately responsible for their actions, but we must act responsible, and hold each other responsible, for practical reasons. While still recognizing intellectually that we are not the arbiters of who we are, and as such things like hatred, vengance etc, make no sense.
The difference here being that, one should not hate Hitler, one should pity Hitler, hate what he does, and strive to prevent it, but were one to become in possession of Hitler himself, if you could ensure he could do no harm, it would be your moral responsibility to ensure he was comfortable and happy. Regardless of his evil actions, he was still a conscious being and did not 'deserve' to be harmed, for what would it actually achieve?
#14792238
PeterPants wrote:Hi all, there seems to be a strange view in the world that people 'deserve' things like punishment.

Justice is rewards commensurate with contributions and penalties commensurate with deprivations.
In reality people are essentially not in control of who they are, what they do, not fundamentally anyway, we are all simply the products of our experiences.
No one chooses their genetics, who raises them, their experiences, ultimately we have no real power in a fundamental way.

That is a confusion. You are assuming that "people" are something other than who they are, what they do, their genetic make-up, the effects of their experiences on their psyches, etc. All the factors that lead someone to make the choices they make ARE that person. The neurochemical composition that their genes produce in their brains, combined with the effects of all their experiences, IS that person. There is no "other" person that is more authentically them than the one that makes their choices.
Many people find this dissolution of 'free will' (whatever thats supposed to be) to be de-humanizing or somehow absolve us of responsibility, to suggest that we have no 'purpose' or that everything is simply pointless, this seems to me to be a massive confusion.

Yep. Yours.
Life for life's sake, existence for existence's sake.

And nothing more.
If a man is born, raised and lives certain experiances that lead to him being a deeply flawed human, what does it even mean to say that he could have done otherwise? further, what on earth could it possibly mean to say that this man 'deserves' to be punished for any wrongdoings?

He deserves to be punished because it was no one but him that did wrong.
Of coruse we are perfectly validated by reason to prevent this man from causing harm, if a person shows themselves to be a system of thoughts and beliefs that can likely lead to actions that negatively affect the well-being of others, then tis perfectly reasonable to imprison this person, or to do anything we can to prevent that harm, but how does it make any sense to 'hate' this person? or to seek 'vengeance' upon him?

Because hatred is the appropriate response to evil, and the possibility of vengeance might make him -- or someone else -- reconsider their evil plans. Remember, the knowledge that one might be punished is ALSO a part of that person.
The simply fact is that if you were born with the brain of a psychopath, and raised with insufficient experiences to prevent you from causeing harm to others, then regardless of how much you think you would fight these tenancies, you simply would be a dangerous person, where does any room for personal responsibility come into it?

Because there is no person BUT the psychopath involved. There is no "more genuine" version of that person who is not a psychopath.
A note on what i mean by responsibility: people are not ultimately responsible for their actions, but we must act responsible, and hold each other responsible, for practical reasons.

People ARE ultimately responsible for what THEY CHOOSE to do.
While still recognizing intellectually that we are not the arbiters of who we are, and as such things like hatred, vengance etc, make no sense.

They make perfect sense. It is the notion of being "arbiters of who we are" that makes no sense.
The difference here being that, one should not hate Hitler, one should pity Hitler, hate what he does, and strive to prevent it, but were one to become in possession of Hitler himself, if you could ensure he could do no harm, it would be your moral responsibility to ensure he was comfortable and happy.

Nonsense. Our duty is to respect others' rights, not look after them.
Regardless of his evil actions, he was still a conscious being and did not 'deserve' to be harmed, for what would it actually achieve?

"Deservin's got nothin' to do with it." -- Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven
#14792323
Justice is rewards commensurate with contributions and penalties commensurate with deprivations.


Correct, and im not arguing against that at all, im arguing against vandetta styled thinking, harming someone because they 'deserve' it.

That is a confusion. You are assuming that "people" are something other than who they are, what they do, their genetic make-up, the effects of their experiences on their psyches, etc. All the factors that lead someone to make the choices they make ARE that person. The neurochemical composition that their genes produce in their brains, combined with the effects of all their experiences, IS that person. There is no "other" person that is more authentically them than the one that makes their choices.


this is not an argument against any position i hole, i agree entirely.

He deserves to be punished because it was no one but him that did wrong.


no, you have not made an argument for why he 'deserves' to be punished, once he is safely locked away and unable to do any further harm to anyone, why harm him? what does it achieve other then more misery in the world?
One can argue that it brings satisfaction to others, to the masses. but thats my whole point, it needn't, it only brings satisfaction because we think primitively about it, not rationally.
Perhaps you have missread or misunderstood me, i am not advocating stopping any actions to prevent harm to others, just a reassessment of our attitude towards others.

Because hatred is the appropriate response to evil, and the possibility of vengeance might make him -- or someone else -- reconsider their evil plans. Remember, the knowledge that one might be punished is ALSO a part of that person.


this is a different point entirely, certainly it is true that the threat of punishment causes some people to act good, this is why religion has been so successful...
but it does not mean that people actually 'deserve' to be punished, again its just practical.

People ARE ultimately responsible for what THEY CHOOSE to do.


its NOT A CHOICE, its just what they did. can you please show how you could do one thing or another?
there is no separation between the person doing the thing, the physical/chemical layout of that person at the time, and the outside influences, they all come together to cause an event, how is it 'we' who does it? it just happens.

Nonsense. Our duty is to respect others' rights, not look after them.


the moment you IMPRISON someone, the moment you hold some power over another wellbing, the moment you have limited their ability to look after themselves, it becomes your responsibility.. obviously.
you cant just lock anyone away and let them starve to death, obviously.

"Deservin's got nothin' to do with it." -- Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven


excellent! yes i agree entirely.
#14792336
I think the rationale behind punishment is that there needs to be some measure of balance. People want to see the balance so they want to see something done to "make it right".

The universe has a way of evening things out but some people demand justice, fairness or whatever.

PeterPants wrote:people are not ultimately responsible for their actions, but we must act responsible, and hold each other responsible, for practical reasons.


As thinking beings, I disagree. We are aware of our actions unless we are incapacitated or in a dream-like state like hypnosis or sleepwalking or suffering from multiple personality disorder, all of which are not that common.

If a man crashes his car into a tree, can we say that the tree is responsible for causing the man to crash the car into it? Did the tree just wake up and move towards the car?

If we are aware of our actions, that makes us responsible for our actions. We must act responsible because the action belongs to us and we should not burden others with our responsibilities if we can help it.
#14792349
I think the rationale behind punishment is that there needs to be some measure of balance. People want to see the balance so they want to see something done to "make it right".


this is exactly the simple and confused thinking im talking about, i can see no rational thinking behind it, 'balance' and 'justice' dont make any sense, no amount of harm to a guilty person can undo the harm they caused, you cant fix pain with more pain, im open to being corrected here but as of yet have never heard a reasonable justification for the idea of balancing things by harming others.

If a man crashes his car into a tree, can we say that the tree is responsible for causing the man to crash the car into it? Did the tree just wake up and move towards the car?


no of course not, this is jsut silly, but to say that he could have done otherwise is also silly, what does it even mean? if you went back in time to before he crashed, and everything was the same, it would play out just the same, he could never have done otherwise, he couldent choose to be someone else, with this in mind we can value him as a person, but we cant blame him for what person he is.
as a center of experience a person has value (if value is to mean anything at all) so we still treat people like they have value, but this primative and confused idea of vengeance, IMO has no place in any rational persons mind.

We must act responsible because the action belongs to us and we should not burden others with our responsibilities if we can help it.


absolutely, we MUST act responsible for our actions. here the word 'responsible' simply fails us somewhat, it cant quite get to the actual point of the matter.
There is a difference between acting responsibly, taking responsibility for our actions, and actually being 'fundamentally' responsible for them. again, you didnt choose your brain or your experiences, things jsut happen, if you were a pedophile, then you'd be a pedophile, simply as that.

But again, im not saying that we shouldent punish people, threat of punishment, and actual punishment is a very useful deterrent.
#14792475
PeterPants wrote:
this is exactly the simple and confused thinking im talking about, i can see no rational thinking behind it, 'balance' and 'justice' dont make any sense, no amount of harm to a guilty person can undo the harm they caused, you cant fix pain with more pain, im open to being corrected here but as of yet have never heard a reasonable justification for the idea of balancing things by harming others.


I tend to like concrete examples. So the example that came to mind was a picture frame on the wall. If the frame is tilted so that one top corner is higher than the other, we tend to want to straighten it, right? It is not just that it looks better when it looks aligned but it also feels more balanced. At the moment, it makes us feel better. We might not feel good minutes later because other things can occupy our thoughts, but for that moment after we straighten the picture frame...we feel a sense of calmness or satisfaction.


no of course not, this is jsut silly, but to say that he could have done otherwise is also silly, what does it even mean? if you went back in time to before he crashed, and everything was the same, it would play out just the same, he could never have done otherwise, he couldent choose to be someone else, with this in mind we can value him as a person, but we cant blame him for what person he is.


I know it was a silly example but it just seemed like a nice example to use. :D

I believe that we have no way of knowing that it could have played out the same had he been more awake or had he been more focused on driving, supposing that he was a bit stressed out or angry that day so he was not as careful as usual. We have a measure of control over our lives.

I agree that we value him as a person and that we cannot blame him for who he is.

but this primative and confused idea of vengeance, IMO has no place in any rational persons mind.


Even rational people can become irrational, it just happens. I can see why people would feel like they need vengeance. The world can be so unjust.

absolutely, we MUST act responsible for our actions. here the word 'responsible' simply fails us somewhat, it cant quite get to the actual point of the matter.
There is a difference between acting responsibly, taking responsibility for our actions, and actually being 'fundamentally' responsible for them. again, you didnt choose your brain or your experiences, things jsut happen, if you were a pedophile, then you'd be a pedophile, simply as that.


I believe that the pedophile was raised wrong or indulged in baser feelings rather than using control to curb his deviant preferences. No one told him not to prey on young children. He grew up thinking that it was okay to use children. I think a lot of people find the very young attractive, they like sprites and nymphs, but not everyone who likes nymphs actually preys on them.
#14792488
Excelent, i agree with everything you said.

I believe that the pedophile was raised wrong or indulged in baser feelings rather than using control to curb his deviant preferences. No one told him not to prey on young children.


I would just add here that the fact that he preyed on the children was was equally down to thing ultimately beyond his control, as are all immoral actions, the man simply did not have the right life lessons, or experiences, or his brain was inadequately capable of empathy or compassion.

This is why i feel that the correct line of action is to pity the man, pity anyone else who has suffered at his hand as well of course, and do everything we can to prevent him from causing more harm, while also taking actions to deter others from thinking they can do such things.

Of course, people are still free to hate, but we can see it on an intellectual level, as an unattractive emotional response, one that needn't garner any respect. Like a temper tantrum :P
#14794259
PeterPants wrote: im arguing against vandetta styled thinking, harming someone because they 'deserve' it.

What better reason would there be?
no, you have not made an argument for why he 'deserves' to be punished, once he is safely locked away and unable to do any further harm to anyone, why harm him?

Locking him away DOES harm him, it abrogates his right to liberty; and he DESERVES to be harmed that way, specifically, because he used his liberty to harm others.
what does it achieve other then more misery in the world?

Prevention of even MORE misery.
One can argue that it brings satisfaction to others, to the masses. but thats my whole point, it needn't, it only brings satisfaction because we think primitively about it, not rationally.

I agree that punishment intended only to inflict suffering makes no sense except as a deterrent example, and its record on that score is spotty at best.
this is a different point entirely, certainly it is true that the threat of punishment causes some people to act good, this is why religion has been so successful...
but it does not mean that people actually 'deserve' to be punished, again its just practical.

People who use their liberty to harm others deserve to be punished by having their liberty to do so removed.
its NOT A CHOICE, its just what they did.

It's a choice because they CHOSE to do it.
can you please show how you could do one thing or another?

Life is based on choosing to do one thing rather than another.
there is no separation between the person doing the thing, the physical/chemical layout of that person at the time, and the outside influences, they all come together to cause an event, how is it 'we' who does it? it just happens.

No, it happens because WHO WE ARE is expressed in what we CHOOSE TO DO. There is no innocent third party who happened to be occupying the body of the person who chose to commit a harmful action against another.
the moment you IMPRISON someone, the moment you hold some power over another wellbing, the moment you have limited their ability to look after themselves, it becomes your responsibility.. obviously.
you cant just lock anyone away and let them starve to death, obviously.

I'm not sure I agree. Consider the landowners who have used their privilege to deprive others of their liberty to sustain themselves, with the result that the latter perished of hunger or exposure -- certainly a common enough phenomenon throughout history. Haven't they in effect locked those other people away -- i.e., away from the natural, pre-existing opportunity to earn a living on the land -- and let them starve to death? Who's to say those who have committed such atrocities do not deserve a similar fate?
#14794370
What better reason would there be?


To prevent MORE harm from happening... to name one.

Locking him away DOES harm him, it abrogates his right to liberty; and he DESERVES to be harmed that way, specifically, because he used his liberty to harm others.


your nitpicking and playing words games here, surely you read where i said very clearly that harming people can be useful and even a good thing for practical reasons...

It's a choice because they CHOSE to do it.


prove it... im claiming that no one chooses anything, not in any meaningfull way, we are machines, if you double click on an icon on your desktop, does your computer 'choose' to open the file?


No, it happens because WHO WE ARE is expressed in what we CHOOSE TO DO. There is no innocent third party who happened to be occupying the body of the person who chose to commit a harmful action against another


who we are is expressed in what we do, choice has nothing to do with it, of course there is no third party, my point seems to have eluded you.

People who use their liberty to harm others deserve to be punished by having their liberty to do so removed.


absolutely they should have their liberty to do harm, removed. what im saying is that to think of it as a 'punishment' is the problem, we should think of it only as a practical move to reduce suffering.


on the matter of 'choice'... heres how it really works..

your presented with a 'choice' you think about it, and make a 'decision'. but if your brain was in a different state at the time, it would have happened differently, if your experiences were different, if you had different genes, then it would have played out differently, to say you could have 'chosen' otherwise is simply to say that the world could have been different, it makes no sense. we do what we do because the world is as it is. we have no power over any of it.

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