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Not Lawliet

Purpose of Punishment

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Objectivism includes a retributive theory of justice, in that the purpose of punishment is essentially to prevent criminals from standing to benefit from the crime, to ensure that those who violate rights face consequences equal to that of their victims. Objectivists, such as Leonard Peikoff and  Diana Brickell, have given satisfying refutations of deterrence, incarceration, and rehabilitation as justifying purposes of punishment. However, I have yet to find an explanation of how retribution in justice is moral, that criminals ought to be punished. I haven't heard a good case for how punishing criminals is in the self-interest of the victims, which I think is the necessary premise needed to justify and also demand punishment of crimes.

So, does anybody here have a good explanation to offer me?

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An indication of a general direction would be: it is in the self interest of rational individuals to remove from their midst those discovered to be irrational in order to maintain a rational culture, where irrationality is evaluated along the axis of respecting individual rights.

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8 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

... I have yet to find an explanation of how retribution in justice is moral, that criminals ought to be punished. I haven't heard a good case for how punishing criminals is in the self-interest of the victims...

Retribution in justice is moral to the degree that moral remedies are applied to immoral crimes; two wrongs don't make it right.  Criminals ought to be punished in order to provide a consequence to choosing to act criminally.  And punishing criminals is in the self-interest of victims in order to prove they cannot act with impunity.

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On 4/17/2016 at 6:09 AM, dream_weaver said:

to remove from their midst those discovered to be irrational in order to maintain a rational culture

The problem I see with this is that confinement or removal of an individual with or from a society can be done without punishing a criminal, or with any negative consequence to them at all. Such would be the case where a criminal, no matter how harsh the crime, is simply relocated or put in a prison that's comfortable so as to be "humane" ("after all, what purpose would it serve to punish them or make it uncomfortable?")

And the problem with rehabilitation or restoration or "moral training", is that it can feasibly be done more efficiently and productively without punishment. An individual could entirely reform their thinking, even become an Objectivist, sincerely wish not to harm another again - all without being punished.

And punishment is not necessary for deterrence of future crimes. A mother who believes parents are responsible to kill their children, and only their own children, if they rebel against them, won't murder another child again if they're too old to have children again. Simply knowing in any given situation that the odds of an individual committing a crime again after doing it once is unlikely, could justify simply letting them go. And if it were deemed that punishment of a certain crime had no effect on deterring other crimes of that nature, under this purpose the punishment would be unnecessary.

Retribution is only form of punishment that considers what a criminal deserves as relevant. All other forms are more concerned with future crimes, or reforming the criminal, than giving them what they deserve.

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As an example, with deterrence and rehabilitation as the prime motives, a thief could be given a surveillance device or restricted to certain activities in society so as to easily eliminate the chances of him stealing again, at a fraction of the cost of prison. It wouldn't be that much of a punishment, especially if the crime was significant. And that individual can be brought in twice a week for therapy and counseling.

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Inside the Criminal Mind was a book suggested during a talk about What To Do About Criminals. My suggestion about segregating the criminal element from the non-criminal element was not so much what to do about a child who shoplifted a piece of candy, but of a murderer, who has demonstrated his esteem for life in general. Both the book and the talk acknowledge there are psychological issues that arise from philosophical errors. (More explicit in the talk, and implicit in the book.)

By all means, if there is a technological solution that could cover a portion of the range thumb-nailed here, then that would leave what to do with those who can not vs. should not be segregated by such means.

Note: SoftwareNerd questioned Objectivism's inclusion of retributive theory of justice.

A search through most of Ayn Rand's writings available on the Oliver searchable CD yeilded no results for either "retribution" near "justice', or "retributive" near "justice'.

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On 4/18/2016 at 3:37 PM, dream_weaver said:

A search through most of Ayn Rand's writings available on the Oliver searchable CD yeilded no results for either "retribution" near "justice', or "retributive" near "justice'.

Well in Letters of Ayn Rand she talked about punishment being a means to "retribution, not reform".

 

Now, I went and read what Peikoff wrote about the virtue of Justice, and I found it enlightening personally. This is my understanding of it now:

Justice as a virtue is primarily a principle of rational judgement of other men. Justice in the form of action, the act of justice, is to grant the response to others as they deserve; there ought to be an emphasis on rewarding virtue, and of secondary importance punishing vice.

As an abstract principle, justice demands that, without undermining one's own self-interest (like with vengeance), one should promote the success of others that are virtuous, and assist in ensuring that people in society do not benefit from evil. Punishment is a means to deterring evil, but in the long-term, not short-term, as part of the abstract principle of justice. The function of criminal punishment in law then is to, once a crime is committed, prevent a criminal from standing to benefit from their rights violation. This is done by forcing a criminal to face consequences equal to the harm done on others.

It's not retribution for the sake of retribution (which Peikoff called subjectivist) and not short-range pragmatism like utilitarianism (which Peikoff called intrinsicist). An objective form of justice would be deterring evil, but, by means of long-range, abstract principles. I suppose any proposition for utilitarian forms of justice would find critical responses from each of Peikoffs discussions of principles and pragmatism.

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6 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

Well in Letters of Ayn Rand she talked about punishment being a means to "retribution, not reform"...

And this is true for a government properly limited to a retaliatory use of force to secure compliance with objectively defined law.  It may or may not be in the self interest of a victim to reform their assailant, but it is very definitely in a victim's self interest to have that which was taken from them restored.  Retribution is a means to that end, and the only means available as a proper action of government acting in the interest of a victim; not the assailant.

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Also I think it's worth noting that even if it seems like a victim doesn't gain a benefit from the punishment itself of their assailant, such a view is very short-range. The victim benefits from the principle, once enforced and practiced, that necessitates that criminals pay consequences, even if a victim doesn't perceive a direct personal benefit of their assailant placed in prison if they aren't going to harm again them again.

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14 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

Well in Letters of Ayn Rand she talked about punishment being a means to "retribution, not reform".

I must have had an additional filter on at the time. The Journals of Ayn Rand has "retribution" near "justice" as follows at the end of her June 19, 1946 entry on page 513:

 Hold out—and they will accept your terms to the extent to which they can survive at all. But give in, compromise—and you destroy your work, aims, desires, happiness, and life—you help them to last a while on the terms of evil, you postpone the justice of [reality's] retribution against them, you serve as their shield—and the end is only total destruction for you and for them.

As I read it, this comes across as a form of naturally occurring justice, postponed by the willingness of the good to serve the evil.

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It makes sense that when a criminal commits an evil act, like an evasion, alone they would suffer as a direct consequence. But in a society, evil can survive, or even flourish, as second-handedness. By merely ignoring evil and choosing to be neutral, you act as a sanction and allow that form of evil sustain itself on the efforts of society, of other people. So, an act of justice in the form of punishment is ensuring that an evil person faces the consequences of their actions that occur naturally in isolation, and can be sustained indirectly by feeding on society.

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These are just my own thoughts.

 

On 4/18/2016 at 4:11 PM, Not Lawliet said:

And the problem with rehabilitation or restoration or "moral training", is that it can feasibly be done more efficiently and productively without punishment. An individual could entirely reform their thinking, even become an Objectivist, sincerely wish not to harm another again - all without being punished.

Possibly. It depends on the person.

 

Suppose we forced a rapist to associate their crimes with fear and pain (through some sort of training, as in a Clockwork Orange, or simply by opening up their skulls to manually rewire them). Would they relapse?

If they'd developed that behavior through an accumulation of certain mental habits (in a way, accidentally) then they might never relapse again; particularly if their retraining included some sort of safeguard against that sort of mental habituation. However, if they'd consciously chosen to engage in that behavior (for example, as an expression of some philosophical sort of hatred) then it would only be a matter of time before they undid their own training.

 

So whether or not anyone could be rehabilitated, and what it would require, is completely unique to each individual.

 

On 4/18/2016 at 4:11 PM, Not Lawliet said:

And punishment is not necessary for deterrence of future crimes. A mother who believes parents are responsible to kill their children, and only their own children, if they rebel against them, won't murder another child again if they're too old to have children again. 

Possibly. Although anyone who considers blind obedience more important than life, itself, doesn't exactly represent a stable quantity.

 

On 4/18/2016 at 4:11 PM, Not Lawliet said:

Retribution is only form of punishment that considers what a criminal deserves as relevant.

 

What someone "deserves" is a moral judgement. It refers to the idea that good actions will have good consequences, and vice-versa.

Since Egoism is supposed to be a rational code of morality, which is consonant with the facts of reality, those consequences should ultimately consist of causal connections.

In a sense, Egoism says that you "deserve" whatever reality gives you.

 

If so then under what circumstances might "bad" people (according to a rational moral standard) enjoy good stuff? Where's the problem we have to solve?

So I don't think retributive force really is necessary, except in order to prevent future crimes.

 

I also don't think governance, itself, is really necessary, which is why I mention that these ideas are just my own.

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On 17/4/2016 at 6:28 AM, Not Lawliet said:

Objectivism includes a retributive theory of justice, in that the purpose of punishment is essentially to prevent criminals from standing to benefit from the crime, to ensure that those who violate rights face consequences equal to that of their victims. Objectivists, such as Leonard Peikoff and  Diana Brickell, have given satisfying refutations of deterrence, incarceration, and rehabilitation as justifying purposes of punishment. However, I have yet to find an explanation of how retribution in justice is moral, that criminals ought to be punished. I haven't heard a good case for how punishing criminals is in the self-interest of the victims, which I think is the necessary premise needed to justify and also demand punishment of crimes.

So, does anybody here have a good explanation to offer me?

Punishment may not be the right or the best way to have a criminal endure for their actions, yet again it's what's established in the American culture and in governments throughout the world. Yes, the American culture is derived from the British in terms which criminals in England (before and after the 13 colonies) had to pay for the crimes by being incarcerated or even killed depending on how serious was the crime. Nowadays many governments have established rehabilitation programs for those that want to participate and have and have opportunity in lowering their sentences. There are still criminals that have to be locked up because they show no signs of change when given opportunities to persevere and leave what they did in the past. So, yes incarcerating criminals may not be the best way but it's the most effective since it's better to have them locked up than have them running around stealing, raping, or killing people.

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