On Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 12:08 AM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:

> On 6/26/2011 7:23 PM, Rex Allen wrote:
>> So what does compatibilism have to say about this?  Nothing useful, it
>> seems to me...
>> http://www.theatlantic.com/**magazine/archive/2011/07/the-**
>> brain-on-trial/8520/<http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/the-brain-on-trial/8520/>
>> Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind
>> many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations
>> of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new
>> way forward for law and order.
>> ON THE STEAMY first day of August 1966, Charles Whitman took an elevator
>> to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower in Austin. The 25-year-old
>> climbed the stairs to the observation deck, lugging with him a footlocker
>> full of guns and ammunition. At the top, he killed a receptionist with the
>> butt of his rifle. Two families of tourists came up the stairwell; he shot
>> at them at point-blank range. Then he began to fire indiscriminately from
>> the deck at people below. The first woman he shot was pregnant. As her
>> boyfriend knelt to help her, Whitman shot him as well. He shot pedestrians
>> in the street and an ambulance driver who came to rescue them...
>> [...]
>> WHILE OUR CURRENT style of punishment rests on a bedrock of personal
>> volition and blame, our modern understanding of the brain suggests a
>> different approach. Blameworthiness should be removed from the legal argot.
>> It is a backward-looking concept that demands the impossible task of
>> untangling the hopelessly complex web of genetics and environment that
>> constructs the trajectory of a human life.
>> Instead of debating culpability, we should focus on what to do, moving
>> forward, with an accused lawbreaker. I suggest that the legal system has to
>> become forward-looking, primarily because it can no longer hope to do
>> otherwise. As science complicates the question of culpability, our legal and
>> social policy will need to shift toward a different set of questions: How is
>> a person likely to behave in the future? Are criminal actions likely to be
>> repeated? Can this person be helped toward pro-social behavior? How can
>> incentives be realistically structured to deter crime?
> Rather than being forward-looking, the above recommendation is myopic and
> reactionary.

Reactionary?  How so?  If he were proposing that we -return- to public
executions and floggings, *that* would be reactionary.  His proposal is, if
anything, radical.

As for myopic...I'm not sure how that pejorative applies either.  It's like
you're just picking insults at random...

His comment on deterrence:

"We have hope that this approach represents the correct model: it is
grounded simultaneously in biology and in libertarian ethics, allowing a
person to help himself by improving his long-term decision-making. Like any
scientific attempt, it could fail for any number of unforeseen reasons. But
at least we have reached a point where we can develop new ideas rather than
assuming that repeated incarceration is the single practical solution for
deterring crime."

> The point of punishing the criminal is not revenge or even retribution.  It
> is based on two forward looking objectives:
> 1) Deter others by the exemplar punishment.
> 2) Prevent feuds by replacing private retribution with public.
> Why do you think executions and corporal punishment used to be public?

Because they couldn't think of anything better.  Given what they knew at the
time, that was all they could come up with.

Do you hold the reactionary position of wishing to return to these

>> The important change will be in the way we respond to the vast range of
>> criminal acts. Biological explanation will not exculpate criminals; we will
>> still remove from the streets lawbreakers who prove overaggressive,
>> underempathetic, and poor at controlling their impulses. Consider, for
>> example, that the majority of known serial killers were abused as children.
>> Does this make them less blameworthy? Who cares? It’s the wrong question.
>> The knowledge that they were abused encourages us to support social programs
>> to prevent child abuse, but it does nothing to change the way we deal with
>> the particular serial murderer standing in front of the bench. We still need
>> to keep him off the streets, irrespective of his past misfortunes. The child
>> abuse cannot serve as an excuse to let him go; the judge must keep society
>> safe. --
> And even if by chemical or other means we could be sure he would not
> re-offend the judge would still punish him because of (1) and (2) supra.

Maybe, maybe not.  The chemical treatment might itself be considered
sufficient punishment.

Alternatively, incentives might be offered to encourage "at-risk" people to
proactively seek that treatment - if it's really so mild as to not be
considered punishment.  Note that the article points out that Whitman did
talk to a doctor before his murder spree.

There are obviously recurring patterns in people's behavior.  The question
is whether these patterns, once identified, can be used to improve society -
by allowing us to be more proactive in avoiding criminal behavior, more
precise in deterring it, and more efficient in rehabilitating offenders into
productive citizens.

And it seems like the question can only be answered by trying out approaches
like those described in the article.

You seem to have already made up your mind though.  No testing or evidence
required - Brent has spoken.


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