Re: Punishment - why?
- From: Michael J Davis <?.?@trustsof.demon.co.uk>
- Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 10:44:42 +0000
Andrew Clarke <ajc@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> writes
On Mar 14, 7:30 pm, Michael J Davis <?...@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
What is the role of 'punishment' in human society? It seesm that many of
our ethical norms relate to the idea that those who break ethical codes
(whether children or adults) should be 'punished'.
To avoid argument and confusion in asking this question I deliberately
**EXCLUDE** other reasons for such sanctions - in particular:-
1. Example (i.e. we punish X so that Y & Z are not encouraged to
2. Protection of society - (i.e. We punish so to deter the
'culprit' from doing it again, and so undermine society.)
3. Rehabilitation. (i.e. Punishment as part of a correction
That leaves me (I think) with the simple concept that "those who have
done wrong should suffer" per se.
Michael, I think you've made a stick for your own back :-) by making
this distinction between the "subjective" and "societal" role of
punishment. Really the two cannot be disentangled. One of the more
depressing aspects of contemporary society is its belief not only that
the individual can be separated from his/her societal role, but that
the former should also take precedence overr the latter. or as someone
else put it, ours is the only culture where society is considered to
be no more than a collection of individuals.
You imply that I've made an error in separating individuals from society
in asking this question. I contend that only by seeing the relevance of
each component can we understand how the individual meshes with society.
I most certainly have not made the error you suggest. ;-)
Another modern error is what might be called naive hedonism: anything
painful is wrong, anything pleasant is right. So punishment, being by
definition painful, is assumed to be wrong, as many of your
respondents seem to think.And yet how cruel it is *not* to discipline
a child ...
Again I'm trying to understand the distinctions here (without falling
into the error you suggest).
"Spare the rod and spoil the child", certainly feels wrong without
context. But as a form of guidance it may be fine. But change - as in
'rehabilitation' or 'reform' can also be painful for the individual.
When I was a prison visitor, the one refrain that kept coming through
was, "people are imprisoned as punishment, not 'to be punished'!" That
is something the general public (especially in the USA, it seems)
fail to understand when they demand ever harsher regimes.
 From a recent interview on BBC with a US prison Governor
noted for his strict discipline.
About pain: I suppose you could argue that in this context it is an
aspect of freedom. Nature (or Whoever) does not prevent someone from
offending. It/He simply lays down that if you transgress, you must
suffer for it.
But 'naturally' pain has two components
a) as a warning that something is wrong ('You've burnt your hand, care
for it') and
b) as a warning that society sees something as wrong.
The problem is that the individual can do little in either case.
Especially if a) is cancer or other serious disease.
However, that may be the point you are making.
Or you could argue that pain suffered through punishment is a way of
educating the will?
Indeed. Is there no other way?
Finally, there's the question of eternal punishment as disctinct from
temporal punishment. Here we Catholics have the wonderful and
necessary doctrine of Purgatory, a process whereby those who have
sinned are purged of their guilt after their death but *not*
eternally. This answers the question "What if Hitler (Stalin, Mao,
etc.) sincerely repented on their deathbead would they go to Heaven
(despite their horrible crimes, which seems unjust) or would they,
despite their repentance, go straight to Hell, which also seems
unjust. Purgatory is one of the places where the Divine Mercy and the
Divine Justice are reconciled, and the souls within, if they suffer,
suffer in hope.
Indeed. But is the suffering a 'burning' (pace 1 Cor 3:15) or merely the
pain of not being admitted?
But surely the reason why punishment after death in eternity is so
terrible is (a) because it's self inflicted (b) because it is outside
time and space, and therefore hopeless and of course (c) the enjoyment
of the Divine Presence is perpetually an impossibility.
Back to the question - is that 'punishment' or 'consequence'?
(Actually you've taken this further than I want to go right now. I only
want to stick to our right to administer 'punishment'.)
Thanks for your response.
[The reply-to address is valid for 30 days from this posting]
Michael J Davis
For this is what the Lord has said to me,
"Go and post a Watchman and let
him report what he sees." Isa 21:6
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