On Mon, Apr 11, 2005 at 10:30:25AM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> I agree that "the purpose of punishment is to prevent that occurrence from 
> happening again"; at least, this is what the purpose of punishment ought to 
> be. But note that this *does* imply an assumption about the reasons people 
> decide to act in a particular way, which is that it is not completely 
> random or indeterminate. If it were, then punishment or the fear of 
> punishment would not have any effect on future behaviour, would it?

Sure - a totally indeterminate human being would not be very
functional. Nor would a totally determinate one. Punishment would
probably be inappropriate in either case.

> Putting aside the pragmatics of the legal system, one's philosophical 
> beliefs about free will can influence attitudes towards criminals. A 
> criminal behaves as he does due to (a) his biology, (b) his past life 
> experiences, (c) random physical processes in the brain, or some 
> combination of the three. It is tempting to add (d) free choice, but how 
> can this possibly be anything different to (a), (b) and (c)? It certainly 
> feels like one can "overcome" (a), (b) and (c) by force of will, but the 
> existence of this subjective experience has no more bearing on reality 
> than, for example, the strong feeling that the Earth is flat, and that 
> there is an absolute up/down in the universe.
> --Stathis Papaioannou

Nothing I disagree with here.

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