14 thoughts on “Justice?

  1. I don’t like the punishment, either; but it’s a tough sort of issue, because I think there’s probably something to Bahrami’s argument: any punishment less might well be looked at as a ‘slap on the wrist’, as we say; and that’s something that can’t be allowed, either. If there’s one benefit about eye for an eye, it always sends a clear message.

  2. Anonymous: you are being ironic? It’s hard to be sure on the internet.

    Brandon, your comment does look as though it is appealing to the idea that the ends justifies the means. Did you mean to?

  3. I dont think the punishment was enough. Why did this happened in the first place?
    First the Person who sold Acid should be blinded, then they should see the problem deeply why the man wanted to blind his wife with acid. Why dont they punish the man by burning each and every part of his body every day one by one with acid.

    That is a brutal, inhumane act. And to punish one should be as burtal and inhumane as one was when they were commiting it. Especially when it comes to the injustice to women, we never see a punishment that sets an EXAMPLE for every man who even tries to think about hitting or throwing acid on their wives, daughters or girl friends.

  4. Blinding the person does seem to be “an eye for eye” and there’s been a pretty negative attitude toward that kind of justice develop in many countries over the last millennium.

    I think it’s hard to address the question this post raises without some understanding of how that change came to be.

    I think one reason for the change may be this: The perpetrator in this case really did two terrible things: he very badly injured this woman and he decided he had the right to do that – he could suspend for himself any obligation to treat her as a human being worth as much as he is.

    One worry about severe state punishment is that it involves one of these terrible things: Deciding someone is effectively sub-human. Of course, there is the counter-argument that someone who did what he did forfeits any rights. But we are arguably on dangerous territory when we decide anyone can stand in such judgment on another person.

    One of the problems with the honor cultures that promote violence against women who offend a man’s honor is connected. In thinking of women as those they can deprive of their most basic human rights if they do somehting wrong they see the people as less than fully human.

  5. PS; I should say that I haven’t really thought about punishment for decades; it would be wonderful to hear from someone more up on the relevant theories than I am.

  6. Hi, jj,

    I wouldn’t say that my comment was appealing to the principle that the the end justifies the means; rather, it’s just that Bahrami is probably quite right as a practical matter that a lesser punishment might well be less effective as a deterrent to this sort of crime, and that this is the most effective way to make clear to everyone that it is wrong and unacceptable. So her argument has a sort of genuine cogency even if

    But punishment is a strange case as it is; there’s a sense in which everyone does believe that punishment is at least partially justified by the ends, since punishments are chosen for pretty much the express purpose of producing a benefit for society — the only question being what sets the range of initial alternatives for means to that end. And that’s a tangle of human and civil rights that takes some unravelling, and where I think we tend usually not to make much of a distinction between the human rights, which everyone should have simply speaking, and civil rights, which depend on the development of society. (E.g., it only makes sense to regard a jury of your peers as a civil right if you can reasonably guarantee that juries of your peers aren’t being bought off or bullied; voting only begins to make sense as a civil right if it’s not for practical purposes ignored; and so the fight for civil rights is not merely a fight for recognition of a legality, it’s a fight for the sort of society where that kind of legality is worth having.) And the latter are cases not of the way things should be in a given society, but the way a certain society should be; so one possible position (for example — I’m not sure it’s the right position) is that the death penalty for violent crimes is the right sort of punishment in a society where that’s the only genuine way to keep violent crimes under control, but the society you should be working for (a much more complicated task) is one in which there are better options than the death penalty even for violent crime.

    So I mostly think of this as just a hard case for everyone. I don’t think we are actually in a different position, although we have a different range of punishments to select from; major punishments may not be equally horrible, and ours may be less horrible than those of another society, but what makes a major punishment a major punishment is always going to be that it’s pretty horrible in its own way. Even we don’t have a society where we can manage without them entirely, however. (Life in prison, for instance, seems to me to be a rather horrible thing to impose on anyone, and there may well be a future society that will be able to look at it as a horrible violation of the right to liberty; but there are cases where it’s hard to say that our society, structured as it is, has the luxury of doing without it.) But I don’t really have a clear idea of where I stand on issues like punishment, so part of what seems to me to be the difficulty of the choice may just be due to that.

  7. My problem with this kind of punishment is that a state needs to appoint someone to administer this kind of horror to a human being. I think there is something essentially wrong in appointing an exectutioner who maims or kills people for money.
    Money is too coercive, it could be that some people get driven to take that job while it is so wrong to maim or kill people only because some person or group of people has determined it must be so. Whatever the law is, people get convicted wrongly, and there is no way of reversing this punishment.
    I agree, there’s no way of reversing a long emprisonment either, but hm hm.

  8. Brandon, Some nice points, but I’m not so sure. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with “ends justifies means” necessarily. I could, e.g., justify closing a door because it keeps the mosquitoes out.

    So the worry about end-means reasoning arises when there are some considerations against an action. There seem to be real reasons againt blinding someone. When that’s the case, it doesn’t seem enough to cite its effects as justification.

  9. Lots of good points in these comments. A few reflections… I certainly wouldn’t want to say that imprisonment is clearly better than blinding, without a lot more detail about what that imprisonment involves. If, for example, it involves being regularly raped (as it too often does), then we’re deluding ourselves if we think it’s more humane. (Sentencing someone to prison sounds OK, but sentencing someone to be repeatedly raped clearly doesn’t. And if we know that the former will mean the latter, then we’re deluding ourselves when we feel OK about prison.)

  10. Jender, I completely agree about the awfulness of prison, though I guess I’m not so sure it is as bad as being blinded by have acid dropped in one’s eyes.

    I’m not really clear about what follows from the fact that prison can involved repeated raping, terrible though that is. One of the things about the blinding is that the state does it. It’s a bit difficult to think about how the state would do the raping, but not impossible. One could have the official raper who brutalizes a prisoner’s rectum with, say, a broom handle for several hours a week. Is that the same as sentencing someone to prison where repeated rape is highly likely?

    I’m wondering also about capital punishment. I’m not sure losing one’s life is really worse than life in prison, but I am inclined to think a society should refuse to endorse capital punishment. We might be deluded in thinking that 50 years of a terrible life in prison is better than capital punishment, but here I’m not at all sure what really follows from that.

    I’ve been thinking mostly in terms of the consequences of having certain practices in a society. There’s some evidence, I think, from experimental philosophy that the moral intuitions of a lot of people distinguish between doing something and letting it be done. One can feel impatient with the distinction – “I didn’t do it, I just let it be done,” sounds like a rotten excuse. But it may be that actually doing the raping, the executing or the blinding has quite distinct psychological effects on the agents and those they represent – namely, the people.

  11. “One of the things about the blinding is that the state does it. It’s a bit difficult to think about how the state would do the raping, but not impossible.”

    If you knowingly lock someone in a cage with a tiger and he is mauled, surely you are responsible for his injuries. Likewise, it seems clear to me that if the state incarcerates an individual in conditions in which he cannot avoid rape, the state is largely responsible; this despite the fact that it is obviously not state officials who actually commit the rape.

  12. Oh, goodness. My Kantian comment was intended to be ironic. ..I really should be more careful about that – sorry!

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