Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 2009/9/5 Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>:
>
>   
>>> http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins
>>>       
>> It seems foolish to beat Basil's car because (1) we know the beating
>> will not improve it's function and (2) we know that is must be possible
>> to fix it (since we built it in the first place).  However neither of
>> these is true in the case of dealing with a person who has committed a
>> crime (I disdain the word "criminal" as if it were a separate species).
>> Such a person may be deterred from further crimes by some punishment and
>> more to the point other persons may be deterred by the example.
>> Furthermore we have no idea how to "fix" the person in a mechanistic way
>> - and if we did would it be ethical (c.f. "Clockwork Orange").
>>     
>
> But there is a difference between punishment to serve some utilitarian
> end - reducing crime - and punishment as retribution.
>   

Ironically, government punishment as retribution was adopted for the 
utilitarian reason that it displaced private retribution which tended to 
feuds.  A desire for retribution is probably something that is built in 
by evolution, but it is far less in some people than others.

> It's also interesting to consider what would happen if we could easily
> change people's character and motivations. Would it be better to
> forcibly change a violent psychopath's brain so that he becomes a nice
> person and thanks you for it afterwards, or would it be better to lock
> him up to prevent him re-offending
I'd say it depends of how anti-social the person's character and 
motivations are and how precisely he could be changed.  In the case of a 
violent psychopath who has murdered someoen we, at present (in the 
U.S.), can execute him - so it doesn't seem *less* ethical to change his 
personality even drastically.  On the other hand there's a slippery 
slope here.  If it's good to "cure" a violent psychopath is it also good 
to "cure" a pedophile, a petty thief, an obnoxious liar, a 
homosexual,...?  Should a person be able to choose a "cure" for themselves?

Brent

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