On punishment and crime
Abstract. This is not a research paper.
While birthing morality from the pillars of existence and recognizing the other, we must determine and acknowledge the exceptions of these in the social context: the crimes and the punishment ensuing.
Man is passion. Remember, not only are we limited by our senses, but by the limits of the senses themselves. This means that there are constrains and chains to our morality and virtue, defining a human as a being that can be pressured, when done properly by the being immoral, into the loss of our instruments of ethics and what we could consider as a “goodness compass”. Being limited by so many things makes it impossible to demand morality and ethical perfection for the whole of its (our) existence conscious. Part of being human is doing things wrong and doing things that are wrong. Wrong actions, and by extension immoral actions. However, such statement is obviously different as to one that would say that human beings do wrong actions, immoral actions, all the time. To achieve excellence in the morality of our actions is to be virtuous.
Alas, on such a short piece, we cannot be specific in our maximum approach to express what reality has shown to develop as. We cannot ignore the history of the state, of the human civilization, of the social experience, when we discuss the crime, as when the correction for the latter is applied, it is done so according to the legality of its corresponding territory. The law as an embodiment and powerful arm in action of occidental and most models of state/nation. It is, however, necessary that we do so. In The Virtue, we will analyze the whole of human behavior and the pillars of existence as should be proper. Consider this a philosophical introduction to those sections relating to mass organization of separated human groups. The reality of the human condition and especially its social surrounding.
We are then, for now, exclusively concerned with what ought to be in society as we know it, a normative philosophical approach. As mentioned, the full process of what is and why it came to be will be taught in another context. At the moment, what is comes to society having a set of rules known as law, enforced by different institutions that represent the state inside its according sovereign borders. Whoever uses the ideological ( — ) of a doctrine that is established jurisprudence as defense for their arguments or opinions is clueless in the analysis necessary for the subject at matter. While having merits of its own, it is not an instrument that can accurately lead us to what should be. Mirroring economics, jurisprudence is rendered incompatible, even before the purpose is stated, for they already exist around what is. It is what follows as my own mind that will be beheaded by Hume’s guillotine. We are analyzing what ought to be while the reality of what is, is. We strive for a way to get and achieve improvements in morality, and thus a virtuous society.
Our rights are not determined by the entitlement given to us by the theories of law that already exist. The difference between an animal that murders and an animal that hunts is nonexistent, for they are both the same and the first does not exist outside of the motivations of survival that drive the second. Exceptions are rare, but they do exist. When it comes to a being of conscience, the murder comes from the knowledge that it is the being itself that is depriving life and not simply eating the next echelon of the power chain. Should we then never consume other living beings? Not necessarily, for we have already recognized the superiority of the conscious being. This conscious being feeds off of living beings, never off of conscious beings. For the first is an action meant to feed the perpetrator and contribute to its survival, while the other is murder as well. To deprive one of both beings of life with motivations other than survival is murder alone, and immoral. This is the difference.
But why? Why are we moral? Is it born with conscience? Is it born with a collective of consciousness and other beings conscious? The Ich und Du relation, the Constitutive Other and its encounter with the Self as Levinas and Buber describe. Perhaps. But this concerns us not in this piece. The conclusions are irrelevant to the fact that we are moral and we ought to be moral. The reasons as to why will and has been explained in separate material. We have let the reader know in previous pieces and the very first phrase of this one.
We are now faced with man and society as what they should be. An idealist would end the paper here, for in thus world of what is perfect there would be no need for concerns of its development or future, there would be no need to analyze or punish the immoral being, for there is no immoral being. We would only realize the analysis of this perfect world’s nature. But as it is not the case, we have to take action as to what to do in this world that is, considering our belief that there is a way to get to what should be.
What are then, the ethics of vengeance? It is simply unethical. If my friend betrays me I will want to betray him back. One would assume the debt is paid. But even if my friend began he will feel as if he deserves revenge. And thus the cycle continues, neverending sempiternal. It involves a large scale of population and times, and is bad for the soul and the mind.
When it comes to revenge, it seems most states perpetrate it as prison. And it makes no sense. Should we not try to expose the offender to moral human contact? How is being surrounded by persons who have been immoral help the immoral become moral? How is excluding a person from society helping them understand how to behave in society? The only reasonable explanation is that the state wishes not to rehabilitate, but to inflict revenge. We have just seen how this is wrong. In some places prisons serve as for-profit corporations, the new slave industry. Capitalist development once again shows its in-sustainability as a failed theory.
To quote Beccaria:
It appears absurd (…) that the laws, which are the expression of the public will and which detest and punish homicide, commit murder themselves, and in order to dissuade citizens from assassination, commit public assassination.
For me, this applies for prison sentences as well. We should find ways to rehabilitate the wrongdoers. A responsible leader must then think which of all of the criminals can qualify. Most of them in reality. Social destruction inflicted by capitalism forces many to live lives undesired, to steal, to join a gang, to murder, to consume drugs and narcotics, etc, etc.
I am unable to claim I can rank crime, this is not Buzzfeed. Jurisprudence’s merits that we mentioned before is tacking the monumental task of asigning graveness to each possible transgression of law (which does not necessarily mean a transgression in morality). In a society of what is, there are grave transgressions. While we get to what should be, abolishing current institutions might work for petty crime, but not for these grave transgressions. However, the purpose of these prisons should be to rehabilitate. Always. Retributive theories are incomplete and immoral.
Let us examine two criminals. One, is not a danger to people’s lives or conscience, only to their material possessions. The second, is. One and the second’s motives are not similar. If one and the second commit a crime they have not the same blame. But if one steals something and the second kills somebody, it appears clearly that the grave offender is the second. Retributive justice would see one return what was stolen and send the second to die. But this ignores the social context in which these crimes occur. This ignores what the result of these actions is. This ignores how the victim was feeling and thus is not entirely retribuitive. There are also somethings that cannot be compensated for. If a blind man pokes my eyes out, how will retributive justice answer? Lex talionis and its justice is unjust, and it is known. I do not know who said this but I know it has been said: An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. (In my mind this was said by Dr. King, I am however unsure).
Punishment as prison might be needed, but it should be reserved to the most vile actions possible. And it should not be retributive. Punishment and the transference of vengeance from victim to state, remains revenge and punishment. This is illogical, as the state institutes prisons with the purpose of rehabilitation, deterrent, or both. Never revenge. When this happens, this is immoral.
As I said before we cannot rank crime objectively, but we can establish how grave something is, and blameworthiness in the individual as well. This means that we must establish thought on what this blame is and how we can justify it as reason enough to act and punish a perpetrator. I will skip this reasoning for it is very simple in my mind, but for a more in depth view on blame and guilt ensuing I recommend Alec Walen’s “On Blame and Punishment, Self-Blame, Other-Blame and Normative Negligence.” We however share different views on retributive theory. I think it ignores (as most of American academia) the socioeconomic development and abusive behavior of civilization. For me, the only criminals that willingly (whether akratic or not) and sovereignly attempt against the integrity of the existence conscious and life deserve to be imprisoned. Murder and crimes that result in grave trauma (rape, kidnapping). But prison for dealing drugs? When the governments of the world are at cause? Prison for robbing when capitalism is to blame? Prison for coerced attempts against life and the existence conscious is as well unnecessary. A young hitman that was born in the life and has been basically left with minuscule oportunities to get away from these habits. Not to blame. Capitalism is. If the evil prosopopoeia of capitalism manifested in appearance as anthropomorphic metaphor, it would deserve prison. If the transgressor is ashamed and feels guilt, yes he is to blame, but he is not to suffer. Why? It serves no purpose other than revenge.
Marxist penology believes that crime comes from social conditions. While working in the latter, rehabilitations remains better than punishing, as all members to society deserve it and should contribute. This rehabilitation should not even occur in prisons for petty crime. Recidivism and immorality are all that ensues. Decarcerate the world! The penology branch that ought to be is rehabilitation. All others are immoral.
Not every soul can be saved, but most of those condemned are thrown into the pits of hell with no escape in unfair circumstances. This is a subject that goes more in depth and that better men and women and whatever stands in between or outisde have thought of in better ways. We must be passionate about morality. I know I am.