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George Oppel
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Thank you for this fascinating argument. I'm pretty much in the "punishment is immoral, can only be justified as a lesser evil" camp, but I'm interested in the competing perspectives. If you don't know it already, William Miller's "Eye for an Eye" gives a very non-metaphysical and often amusing account of the lex talionis. Miller has no problem with revenge as a principle of justice, whether you take justice to be punitive or compensatory (the two are related). Then there's Rene Girard's treatment of revenge in the first chapter of "Violence and the Sacred." For him, there is no difference in principle between state legal systems and "atavistic" notions of sacrifice and trial-by-ordeal. Revenge is the core idea in every attempt to prevent violence. The state just rationalizes revenge but in such a way as to conceal its conceptual and historical connection to primitive religion. These two non-philosophers help to shore up your case, I think.
Toggle Commented Jul 19, 2012 on A Few Short Steps to the Gallows at
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Sep 2, 2011