[ExI] insanity plea

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Wed Feb 27 17:26:06 UTC 2013

On Tue, Feb 26, 2013  Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:

 > The point of punishment is manifold.

I profoundly disagree. The only legitimate point of punishment is to
prevent the person from performing the same evil act again and to deter
others from doing something similar. I don't deny that there can be other
reasons, like everyone else I am not completely free from sadistic thoughts
that come from the reptilian parts of my brain, but I am not proud of such
impulses and will not defend them. Some seem to think we should inflict
pain on evildoers just for the sake of pain, that if someone got pleasure
in a evil way we should cause him pain to somehow balance the ethical
books. I think that is nonsense and such a policy can only increase the net
unhappiness in the world.

> Looking at the list, rehabilitation and deterrence depend on learning.

Deterrence works but as for rehabilitation, well it would be wonderful if
we knew how to do it but we don't. In the real world we take a person who
grew up in a bad environment and lock him up in an absolutely horrible
prison environment and expect him to reform. The only thing on our side is
time, for some reason older people tend to be less violent than younger

> Removal/prevention is all about just preventing certain actions.

I don't understand what you mean by "just", isn't preventing certain
actions the entire point?

> Retaliation is more about inducing certain states in other people.

I'm not interested in the internal state of criminals, I'm only interested
in there external behavior; perhaps he thought he was catching butterflies
when the maniac chopped me up with a ax but that doesn't make me any less
dead, and if he was that disconnected with reality that makes him a very
very dangerous man and very likely to kill again either in prison (or a
mental hospital) or on the streets. And there is a practical consideration
too, a jury has a hard enough job figuring out what actually happened in a
criminal case, to demand that they also figure out what thoughts were
dancing around the head of the defendant at the time of the incident is
asking too much and turns the law into a mockery.

> > Ethicists might discuss the justice aspect of retribution endlessly,

That's why I have no use for ethicists, I see no evidence that they are
more ethical than non-ethicists.

> it is not fair to punish people who could not do otherwise

 I profoundly disagree. Let's talk about those who could have done
otherwise but chose not to and decided to commit murder. There are only 2

1) They chose to murder for a reason (bad genes or a bad environment or
2) They chose to murder for NO reason (it was random)

So if we should not "punish people who could not do otherwise" then we
should not punish anybody anytime for anything. And that of course would
destroy society, therefore the only logical conclusion is that the entire
concept of a "moral agent" is meaningless and brings nothing but chaos to
the legal system, and so everybody should be responsible for their

  John K Clark
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