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Hard Determinism and punishment

  1. Sep 9, 2005 #1
    *It is often held that punishment under pure (hard?) determinism is irrational as the criminal had "no free choice" NoT to commit a crime, and cannot thus be held responsible. Of course, I will have to cite my sources for this statement (no doubt about it!), but moving on...

    But, why must punishment necessarily be derived from individual responsibility (or the free will and/or capability to have acted otherwise)?
    *For example, if a person is raised in a neighborhood replete with crime and gangs, they may develop a tendency towards violence. Whether or not he/she is morally or "voluntarily" responsible for his/her crime, he/she *does* have tendencies towards violence which must be corrected (e.g., via imprisonment). Basically, punishment of crime is need not necessarily be "punishment of one's voluntarily choice to commit crime", but merely a means of correcting one's tendencies towards crime, whether or not he/she is necessarily responsible for these tendencies.

    *As another example, consider an individual with destructive psychiatrical conditions (harmful to others or to him/her-self?). Whether or not he/she is "voluntarily responsible" for whatever harmful actions are committed, he/she must nevertheless be "punished" or undergo treatment to reduce tendency to harm others or his/her-selves (yes, my his/her's get quite annoying). Perhaps not "imprisonment", but somehow undergo an experience (e.g., treatment) that will reduce tendiencies towards such harm.

    *Just one more example (this one may be irrelevant!): consider a person deviod of considerable tendency towards crime, but was hypnotized to murder someone. This fact is "proven" (technically how? I do not know yet), and the person receives a "punishment"-->Not "imprisonment", but merely rather just a quick de-hypnotization. (This example serves merely to show that circumstances can exist for which punishments/treatments less harsh than imprisonment can be useful. "Punishment" need NOT necessarily be strict imprisonment! Whoever did hypnotize or force that person to kill would have the true tendencies towards crime. Or maybe someone hyptomized him/her as well??-->But seriously, stick with me here)

    *Basically, the pure/hard(?) determinism that deems all action as a collection of genes & experience/"nature"&"nurture" can support reasonable punishment, meant simply as a correction towards tendency towards crime. As someone might paraphrase pushinment, "an unfortunate but necessary result of unfortunate nature+nurturing". There is no reason why pure/hard determinism does not support punishment of individuals; punishment is to correct the existing tendency towards crime (or sin?) regardless of whether the criminal action in question was voluntary or involuntary. (Whatever "punishment" it be--simply dehypnotization, one/two pills, a nice short counselor talk:smile:--->or in quite the serious case, imprisonment).

    *What do you guys think? :redface:
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2005 #2
    If society do not have any prisons, or means to punish those that do harm to other. There would not be justics or law, because no one would fear consequence of their damaging actions (like steal, lying and cheat). But since civil society cannot happen without rule-of-law, it is necessary for society to have laws, and the means to punish those that violate the law.
  4. Sep 9, 2005 #3
    That is exactly what I think. When you change your understanding of "evil", you must also change your understanding of "punishment". In the end, all we're doing is playing with language. No matter how you choose to see things, the fact remains that some people need to have certain experiences forced on them, or else society falls into chaos.
  5. Sep 10, 2005 #4
    It is good,
    to agree :smile:
  6. Sep 12, 2005 #5

    Another God

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    I remember one of the first philosophical websites i ever stumbled across was www.determinism.com. It probably still exists, but I cant be bothered looking at it right now, so this is coming from my memory that is now like 6 years old, but I remember something being mentioned on this site about reformation away from our punishment system into the idea of reformation. Instead of punishment as a deterent for criminals, they advocated re-education for criminals.

    I guess that is what our society CLAIMS to do with criminals, reform them into law abiding citzens (LOL), and from a deterministic point of view, it DOES make a lot of sense. Theoretically you should be able to pull the right strings, so and do the right things and deterministically push someone down the path of a good citizen.

    The obvious problem with that, is that crime has to be commited before you can (theoretically) reform the person. Sometimes a dis-incentive is much simpler to implement and just as effective at deterministically affecting someone's decision making process so that they never commit crime in the first place.
  7. Sep 12, 2005 #6

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    determinism.com doesnt seem to exist anymore. Not surprised, it never looked like a particularly well developed site.
  8. Sep 14, 2005 #7
    You don't have to believe in determinism to prefer re-education to punishment.
    Moreover, it is not particularly scientifc or naturalistic to argue than
    "X must be false because we don't like the social consequences of X"
  9. Sep 15, 2005 #8
    Watch (or read, but you gotta love kubrick) a clockwork orange it doesn't really deal with determinism specificly but does deal with the purpose of imprisionment and what society should do with a person who generally enjoys doing evil.
  10. Sep 15, 2005 #9
    I don't think that anyone believes is that sort of determinism, but if they did then the answer would be "so what?" Society may punish criminals, but since society has "no free choice" in the matter then its pointless to try to change it.
  11. Sep 15, 2005 #10


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    If hard determinism is to be consistent, rationality is not an issue.
    Any punishment that happens to be inflicted on the criminal is as predetermined as the crime that occasioned it.
    That is, the actions of the judges and juries are as predetermined as the actions of the criminal.
  12. Sep 17, 2005 #11
    Determinism causes many paradoxes.

    Fortunately, determinism actually died on Sept 15 2005, due to a slight modification of Planck time.

    The universe is filled with dynamic processes, and every last one of them is a BLEND of order and disorder. Believe it or not, you can derive this result very simply by a slight modification of Planck time.

    Crime is a mixture of order and disorder. Punishments are a mixture of order and disorder.

    I can prove determinism does not exist in the universe by considering time. Really.

    So, you can easily make the argument that people are partly responsible, but partly not responsible. Similarly, all punishments are somewhat just, and somewhat unjust. There is no perfect order. There is no perfect disorder. Chaos reigns supreme.
  13. Sep 20, 2005 #12

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    I am not convinced at all. I don't see any paradoxes in a deterministic universe whatsoever. I also tend to actually beleive 'hard' determinism is the only version of reality which makes sense.

    As long as our brains are actually intune with the universe, then our brains imply that the universe is actually logic (ie: Our brains function on a logical if then basis. A causes B causes C etc). If the universe is such, then there will always be a reason for something to happen. That reason, is the determining factor.

    The reason X happens, is because of factors a through z acting exactly as they did. Wether we understand it, can see it, hear it, imagine it or calculate it is not really relevent. But causal relationships indicate determination.

    (I can find several flaws with my own argument above, and am not entirely convinced by it myself. but I know that i still cant find a more rational option, and find that this version actually fits what we experience.)
  14. Oct 8, 2005 #13
    I disagree. A paradox is caused either by an inconsistency in assumptions, or a mistake in logic. Can you give an example where determinism causes a paradox?

    Explain please.

    The universe IS a dynamic process (actually, all processes are dynamic by definition). What do you mean by “disorder”?

    Again, what do you mean by “disorder” here?

    Really? I doubt that.

    There is a limit to all “responsibility” yes. I am not resposnible for the fact that I have hazel coloured eyes for example. But so what?

    That depends on the reason for the punishment in the first place. Is the punishment in question given out in order to deter other would-be offenders? Or is it given out in order to exact revenge? Or is it given out in order to change behaviour (of the offender)? Or is it given out in order remove the offender from society? One or all of these reasons could be behind a particular punishment. And all of them "work" and are just, even if the world is 100% determinsitic.

    What does this mean in English?

  15. Oct 9, 2005 #14
    some more thoughts on this.....

    I have just read an article about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a psychological aberration which affects a small percentage of the human population. People suffering from NPD have such an inflated sense of self-worth that it can dominate their lives. NPD sufferers have an extreme feeling of superiority, a total lack of empathy, they expect special treatment, they have a constant need for admiration, they are preoccupied with fantasies of success, they constantly exaggerate abilities and achievements, they exploit other people, etc etc. In any organisation which employs 100 or more people it is reckoned that at least one, usually the one at the top, suffers from NPD.

    None of the above is a crime of course. But sufferers of NPD can go on to commit horrendous crimes - for example John Hinckley (who shot Ronald Reagan) was diagnosed with NPD. Several killers in the UK have been diagnosed with NPD.

    What does all this have to do with this thread? NPD is an example of a personality disorder where we could say that the sufferer "could not help themselves", they were driven to do what they did by circumstances outside of their direct control. Hence the fact that a diagnosis of NPD can be enough to allow an accused to avoid murder charges. Instead, the charge is usually manslaughter.

    And yet.... does this mean that there should be "no punishment"? Again (as in an earlier post in this thread) we must ask "what are the reasons for punishment? what are we trying to achieve by punishing an offender?"

    In the case of NPD, any punishment given out is not intended to "cure" the sufferer; neither is it intended to deter other potential NPD sufferers from committing crimes (such punishment would not work in this case). Instead, the punishment (usually imprisonment) is intended to remove the sufferer from society, in order to protect society. Psychiatrists have little idea what causes NPD, and no idea how to treat it. The only solution, therefore, is to remove the NPD sufferer to a place where they cannot do any damage to society at large - in other words lifetime imprisonment.

    The NPD sufferer is not responsible for the fact that they have NPD. It is not "their fault". And yet the only workable solution (at present) is to lock them away for as long as possible.

    **** happens.

    That's life.

  16. Dec 15, 2005 #15
    Did I err in my definition of punishment? http://www.intpcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7955 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
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