[ExI] free-will, determinism, crime and punishment
gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 20 13:04:11 UTC 2007
On Mon, 20 Aug 2007 00:21:28 -0400, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> Well, I agree with the prosecutor!
I had a hunch you did. :)
> The defendant *could* have chosen to do other than he did. I thought
> you were a compatibilist.
Seems to me you're forgetting why it's called "compatibilism":
compatibilism is compatible with determinism.
When a compatibilist speaks of free-will, he does so only in a manner of
speaking. As you wrote to John, (and I agree completely) compatibilism is
the best way to use words. But that's all it is!
For purposes of retributive punishment in a court of law the burden of
proof is on the prosecution to prove determinism is false. I insist that
no prosecutor can produce any such evidence. And if determinism is true
then my client could not have chosen not to commit the murder and is
therefore not deserving capital punishment for reasons of retribution.
I don't deny that my client chose freely to commit the crime. However, as
far as anyone knows, it was in my client's criminal nature to choose to
commit the crime, and his criminal nature is entirely a product of
biological and environmental influences. He is a physical object fully
embedded in physical reality like any other object, a caused object with a
caused nature, not a causally autonomous agent who stands outside the
ordinary chain of cause and effect.
> Why emphasize capital punishment?
I'm emphasizing the capital punishment issue in these arguments because if
you ask people why they support capital punishment instead of life
sentences, you'll hear a lot of arguments about retribution and revenge.
Were it not for belief in retribution, capital punishment would probably
not be in option in those states in which it is legal. It's extremely
controversial whether capital punishment deters homicide more than life
sentences (in fact there is evidence to suggest the reverse is true) and
of course killing the criminal does nothing to rehabilitate him. Capital
punishment is mostly about retribution.
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