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Thought Experiment - Capital Punishment

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hashem Posted: Sun, Jul 29 2012 7:18 PM

Do you think supporters of capital punishment for convicted murderers would abandon, or at least reconsider for an indeterminate amount of time, their support of the institution if they had to personally take the life of the perpetrator? Not by hanging or lethal injection or by pushing a button, but by strangling or snapping of the neck with one's bare hands. By some means with the least amount of technology and abstraction from the raw act of ending a human life.

Personally, I think there would be a few twisted f***s who would be comfortable getting "vengance" or whatever. But I really think the vast majority of people I've met who support capital punishment would drop their support if they had to carry the act out personally, in the raw.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Capital punishment violates the Non-Aggression Principle, since humans have inalienable rights and even if they agreed to it beforehand they can still opt out. Of course you can give someone the right to end your life but you can stop them at anytime before your life is actually ended.

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Jul 29 2012 8:48 PM

Hashem - what about killing animals? A lot of people couldn't kill animals. Does that mean it's immoral?

I agree with your goal, but I don't think your argument achieves that goal.

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gotlucky replied on Sun, Jul 29 2012 9:29 PM

@Wheylous

In some parts of the world, people are far less squeamish about killing animals for food. I suspect that a large part of the squeamishness of the West is that we are a wealthy enough society that we do not have to witness things we find displeasurable.

@Hashem

Have you ever read this page in the bible wikipedia?

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hashem replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 9:18 AM

It was a serious question though, who among you thinks people would severely reconsider their support of capital punishment if they had to take the life with their bare hands?

gotlucky, nope, I've never read that.

Wheylous, you're clever but I'm not sure if you're THAT clever...where do you think I'm going with this? It wasn't dealing with morality as much as nonviolence and the reasons (abstraction, mainly) that people support violence. I was thinking about the implications if violence isn't prohibited (which would require violence at some stage), but if nobody has incentive to support violence. Even retaliatory violence can be effectively solved through ostracism.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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gotlucky replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 9:36 AM

@Hashem

As I pointed out to Wheylous, I think a large part of your point really depends upon being in a wealthy society, as wealthy societies can employ specific people to do certain dirty jobs, so the rest of us end up finding it too distasteful for us to even do. Nevermind soldiers and police and violent criminals. Let's look at an example with civilians. Consider the stonings and executions that happen in the Middle East every so often (I'm looking at you, Afghanistan). Actual villagers will stone people to death; it's not always specific executioners. And, unless Hollywood is totally making stuff up (which I wouldn't put past them), public executions used to occur in the West, France for example.

I think a large part of this just has to do with culture and the wealth of a society.


I know the link wasn't really on topic, but I thought it was interesting that while capital punishment in theory is considered morally right by the Torah, the Rabbis effectively banned it anyway by making the standards of conviction extraordinarily high.

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xahrx replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 10:18 AM

"Do you think supporters of capital punishment for convicted murderers would abandon, or at least reconsider for an indeterminate amount of time, their support of the institution if they had to personally take the life of the perpetrator? Not by hanging or lethal injection or by pushing a button, but by strangling or snapping of the neck with one's bare hands. By some means with the least amount of technology and abstraction from the raw act of ending a human life." - Hashem

I always ask them to kill someone they love.  It's a foregone conclusion that innocent people would be executed, and generally the answer is gotta break eggs to make an omelette.  So, I tell them fine, I agree, so strap your mother or son or daughter or wife etc., to the table and kill them.  Let someone they love be the innocent sacrifice.  And, if they're not willing to do that, that at least points out to them what massive hypocrits they are asking other people to make that sacrifice when they're not willing to make it themselves.

Self sacrifice is easy.  Sacrificing someone you love is much, much harder.

"I was just in the bathroom getting ready to leave the house, if you must know, and a sudden wave of admiration for the cotton swab came over me." - Anonymous
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bloomj31 replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 11:25 AM

Probably.

This question reminds me of the neuroethical studies done on the trolley car problem and its numerous variations.

One can probably expect a relatively high level of squeamishness for up close and personal violence amongst a large swath of the population because up close and personal violence elicits a much stronger emotional response than does violence done at a distance.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your stance on the issue, people who support the death penalty can delegate the job to someone more willing to do it.

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Jargon replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 2:20 PM

Can we use a cliff, or maybe a heavy rock? :P

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The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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hashem replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 2:44 PM

Well stonings are public acts, so that's abstraction from the raw act of personally getting vengance through violence.

But really I was just thinking about how ostracism is the most extreme retaliation that can really be just. Since I don't feel violent retaliation is just, I was thinking about what make social groups accept such violence. The reason I came up with was that the violence is abstracted.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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gotlucky replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 8:57 PM

hashem:

Well stonings are public acts, so that's abstraction from the raw act of personally getting vengance through violence.

While stonings are (typically) public acts, the crowd may participate, so these people are very much involved in the violence. It seems that your point is that even with public stonings, the people can still sort of hide in manner a speaking. They are just acting with the herd. But would these very same people actually take a knife to someone or strangle them 1v1, without the herd mentality? I think that is what you are asking, so correct me if I'm mistaken.

hashem:

But really I was just thinking about how ostracism is the most extreme retaliation that can really be just. Since I don't feel violent retaliation is just, I was thinking about what make social groups accept such violence. The reason I came up with was that the violence is abstracted.

Well, this is just a matter of personal taste. I do think that violent retribution is acceptable, but violence is *absolutely* necessary in order to have law. I do think that ostracism of some kind would be far more common in a free society, and that capital punishment would be very rare.

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hashem replied on Mon, Jul 30 2012 9:48 PM

Ya that's exactly what I mean. I think people support violence because the rawness of it is separated from their experience of it. I think also that violence is a manifestly immature behavior, and that as people in civilized societies mature they will naturally prefer ostracism to violence retaliation.

Why do criminals resort to crime in the first place? Because they're too immature to have the capacity and motivation to manage a successful-feeling life, and because they have become comfortable getting what they want regardless of whot hey hurt. I don't think the natural tendency is for humans to grow up immature, or to be comfortable hurting other humans, so to me immaturity is a result of bad influences. Necessarily, those influences will have to be minimized in order for a peaceful society to be possible.

but violence is *absolutely* necessary in order to have law.
That may be true. I don't support law though. I don't even support contract enforcement, because it requires violence. I support maturity: social bonding, overcoming taboo, mutually voluntary exchange, ostracism, etc.

Having said that, I realize the source of human conflict is scarcity of resources, and that the function of technology is to reduce the impact of such scarcity, so I don't pretend we can have a peaceful society without the technology (communication technology, production technology, persistent advance, etc) to support it. I also think it would take generations of peaceful parenting which won't happen any time soon.

 

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jul 31 2012 12:58 PM

I'd prefer to force him into servitude until I felt satisfied. That may be for as long as I live, or for as long as he lives.

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Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

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gocrew replied on Tue, Jul 31 2012 8:56 PM

Capital punishment violates the Non-Aggression Principle

 

No it does not. Murder violates the NAP, execution is a respone, not an initiation.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under - Mencken

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gocrew replied on Tue, Jul 31 2012 8:59 PM

Since I don't feel violent retaliation is just

 

How does that work?

 

The reason I came up with was that the violence is abstracted.

 

Why would we not accept violence? If someone murders my child, I'm going to give him what he's got coming. Libertarians aren't pacifists; we don't reject violence, we reject aggression.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under - Mencken

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Marko replied on Wed, Aug 1 2012 12:19 PM

Lol, this is interesting. Limiting the ways in which a murderer may be executed. Yes, that's a great idea. Let's introduce totally arbitrary laws to try and help protect  murderers from just punishment.

Sorry Madam, the person who fouly murdered your son may not be killed by someone you pay to do it, nor he may be shot by you! The only way this happens is if you yourself strangle him with your bare hands! Yes, that's a great idea! Let's further victimize and penalize people who have had the people closest to them fouly murdered. Because obviusly they have not suffered enough! Let's add to their grief! Let us make them strangle murderers with their bare hands, or else if they refuse let us deny them justice! Because we can!!


Where exactly do you find the justification to make this mandatory, nihilist?

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