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Thread: RETRIBUTIVISM

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    .....the smarter someone is, the easier they're able to use logic to identify workable life pathways and take them. This would manifest itself in distinct behaviors like forgiveness and cooperation, which each need to be categorized with language.
    Possibly. I'm not sure. Both could be instinctive. I think cooperation is, in several other species of ape, especially bonobos. Apparently, they resolve disputes by having sex. Rather a handy trait in my opinion, that humans might benefit from adopting more often. Other than after a burglary or a rape, obviously.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    What I thought was an interesting account of forgiveness:

    (1) A believes that X is wrong.

    (2) A believes that X is an action of B.

    (3) A believes that B is a moral agent.

    (4) A believes that there are no excuses, justifications or other circumstances which would preclude blame.

    (5) A believes that the world would have been a better place had B not done X.

    (6) A believes that the world would be a better place if something would happen to B, something which would somehow offset B’s Xing.

    (7) B’s having Xed tends to make A feel something negative, i.e., a reactive emotion, like outrage, indignation or resentment.

    A forgives B (as a pure mental phenomenon) when, in addition:

    (8) A believes that the world would in fact be a worse place if she did some- thing to B in response to her wrongdoing, and thus she deliberately refuses to try to offset B’s wrongdoing.

    A forgives B (in the communicative sense) when, finally:

    (9) A communicates to B, or to someone else, that she has forgiven (in the sense of a pure mental phenomenon) B.


    The Paradox of Forgiveness
    http://minerva.union.edu/zaibertl/za...orgiveness.pdf

    I guess an account of retribution would be the same up to and including (7). In such an alternative account, (8') would be "A punishes B" (perhaps because A believes that the world would in fact be a worse place if they did not).
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    As I understand it, Retributive Justice is a theory of punishment that when an offender causes harm, justice requires that he or she suffer harm in return.
    There are different theories. My position is that whether the offender causes harm is not the issue. They deserve to suffer in retribution for their wrongdoing, regardless of whether they managed to cause harm. And justice does not 'require' things except in the sense that it is not just if they get away with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Ok, so, I get it. The basis is justice. But I also don't get it. From where does this sense of justice come from? My guess is it's an evolved (now innate) trait.
    Yes, it's part of our moral sense. It allows us not only to make assessments of desert, but also of moral permissibility, praiseworthiness, impermissibility, and so on.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    But it's not the only evolved (innate) trait. There's its antonym, forgiveness.


    Isn't it more likely to be the case that whether retribution or forgiveness (much like competition or its antonym, co-operation) is appropriate, is situation-dependent?
    There is a difference between whether retribution is deserved, just, etc., and what is appropriate to do. It is not appropriate to do justice if doing so results in aliens killing off humanity in retaliation and one knows that (for example). The point is that if the wrongdoer gets away with it, then justice was not done, and that is a negative, but then, there might be other positives in other responses.

    At any rate, justice is a good in an of itself. But there might be some bads that justify refraining from doing justice, or even make it obligatory not to do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Also, retribution is usually (I think) described by retributivists as being morally right regardless of consequences.
    No, that is not true at all. Could you link to any retributivists who do that?

    Whenever we act, we need to consider the expected consequences. The actual consequences are not relevant to whether our action is permissible, etc., but the predictable and predicted consequences, as well as the intent, etc., are. If we intend to do justice, we intend a good, and we do not need further justification, as long as there is no bad that also results from our action. Otherwise, it depends on the bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I really don't get that part.
    Neither do I. It would be absurd.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Surely consequences are an integral part of the equation? How else could we measure (or even know) whether something is 'right' or 'wrong', 'good' or 'bad', useful or not?
    Surely they are, but not in the sense you seem to propose. We figure it out thinking about an action - including, yes, its consequences - and using our moral sense. The actual consequences are irrelevant, as they cannot retroactively make our action more or less immoral.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Evolution is blind and natural selection is ruthless. What works survives, in the long term. As such, retribution is surely based on consequences?
    There is a big difference between what caused an adaptation - which always has to do with its consequences, in some environments - and our motivation to act. Regardless, consequences are important in a sense (see above).

    But regarding consequences, let me ask you: do you have any final goals, i.e., any goals that you seek for their own sake, rather than as means to some other, further goal? If so, can you identify at least one?
    Last edited by Angra Mainyu; 02-11-2020 at 05:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Also, retribution is usually (I think) described by retributivists as being morally right regardless of consequences.
    No, that is not true at all. Could you link to any retributivists who do that?
    Yes, you: "The actual consequences are irrelevant".

    See also my further thoughts towards the end of this reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    At any rate, justice is a good in an of itself.
    We're doing retribution specifically, not justice generally. The two aren't synonymous or interchangeable, and it might say something about your underlying approach if you think they are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But there might be some bads that justify refraining from doing justice, or even make it obligatory not to do it.
    Setting aside that you said 'justice' again there instead of 'retribution', that could be restated as "in some instances, non-retribution is good". Which would mean that the claim "retribution is good" would not be universally true, and should be amended to, "retribution is sometimes (or more likely often) a good, but not always". I'm not sure that's a maxim of retributivism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Whenever we act, we need to consider the expected consequences. The actual consequences are not relevant to whether our action is permissible, etc., but the predictable and predicted consequences, as well as the intent, etc., are. If we intend to do justice, we intend a good, and we do not need further justification, as long as there is no bad that also results from our action. Otherwise, it depends on the bad.
    Ok that's basically consequentialism though. Retributivism is often set against that, because the latter claims that retribution is morally good/right of itself. The bolded part is a simple and stringent justification, and it's arguably the key claim of retributivism and the most difficult to justify.

    Now maybe, as with most things, there are weak and strong varieties. If there is a weak form of retributivism which only claims "retribution is sometimes or often, possibly very often indeed, a good, but not always", then ok. If I was going to call myself a retributivist I think I'd definitely be that sort. The strong/absolutist sort seems almost impossible to defend.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    We figure it out thinking about an action - including, yes, its consequences - and using our moral sense. The actual consequences are irrelevant, as they cannot retroactively make our action more or less immoral.
    Actual consequences in any particular instance (and these are the further thoughts I referred to at the start of this reply) may only seem to be irrelevant. Actual consequences, in evolutionary history, are likely what underlie and inform our judgements and possibly what caused a moral sense to emerge in our species in the first place, and they may now be built-in to our probabilistic, predictive assessments and are thus relevant factors, psychologically (consciously or otherwise), perhaps also genetically, and so on. We are arguably probabilistic prediction machines in many fundamental ways. That does not mean the predictions always have to be accurate in each and every individual case.

    That would still mean that our moral sense is essentially consequentialist (based on actual, evolutionarily historic consequences) and not based on some hypothetical or abstract principle about things being right or wrong 'of themselves'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But regarding consequences, let me ask you: do you have any final goals, i.e., any goals that you seek for their own sake, rather than as means to some other, further goal? If so, can you identify at least one?
    I'm not sure what that has to do with the topic? I can't readily think of one. Staying alive perhaps?
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-11-2020 at 11:20 AM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Yes, you: "The actual consequences are irrelevant".
    I said the actual consequences are irrelevant (but the expected consequences, etc., matter), but I did not say retribution was morally right in all cases. So, rather than retribution being morally right regardless of consequences, it is morally right or morally not right regardless of consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    We're doing retribution specifically, not justice generally. The two aren't synonymous or interchangeable, and it might say something about your underlying approach if you think they are.
    The word 'justice' has more than one meaning. One of them - I would say the central and most important - is just retribution.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Setting aside that you said 'justice' again there instead of 'retribution', that could be restated as "in some instances, non-retribution is good". Which would mean that the claim "retribution is good" would not be universally true, and should be amended to, "retribution is sometimes (or more likely often) a good, but not always". I'm not sure that's a maxim of retributivism.
    I said justice - i.e., retribution - is a good in an of itself. The problem is that sometimes, it is not possible to mete out retribution without bringing about some bad things. Depending on the case, it would not be justified to do justice because of those other, further consequences.

    I'm not married to a word, but if that's not what retributivism is (at least the correct variant of it), then too bad for retributivism (whatever that means). Still, you should know most retributivists accept that sometimes it is reasonable and acceptable not to do justice.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Ok that's basically consequentialism though. Retributivism is often set against that, because the latter claims that retribution is morally good/right of itself. The bolded part is a simple and stringent justification, and it's arguably the key claim of retributivism and the most difficult to justify.
    That is not consequentialism, in any usual sense of the term.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    The strong/absolutist sort seems almost impossible to defend.
    Who defends it?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Actual consequences, in evolutionary history, are likely what underlie and inform our judgements and possibly what caused a moral sense to emerge in our species in the first place, and they may now be built-in to our probabilistic, predictive assessments and are thus relevant factors, psychologically (consciously or otherwise), perhaps also genetically, and so on. We are arguably probabilistic prediction machines in many fundamental ways. That does not mean the predictions always have to be accurate in each and every individual case.
    You're conflating what caused our faculty or what gives us information to make judgments with what matters morally when it comes to making those judgments.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    That would still mean that our moral sense is essentially consequentialist (based on actual, evolutionarily historic consequences) and not based on some hypothetical or abstract principle about things being right or wrong 'of themselves'.
    No, our moral sense is not like that. Our judgments and motivation are not like that. The fact that results from evolution does not support the idea that it is like that. Whether something is sexually attractive does not depend on their actual fertility. Whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous. And whether something is morally wrong does not depend on its actual consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I'm not sure what that has to do with the topic? I can't readily think of one. Staying alive perhaps?
    Great, so staying alive is a final goal. You do not seek it for a further goal, but for its own sake. But that does not mean that you will put that goal above everything else. You probably will not, as there are worse things. Similarly, we humans seek justice (i.e., retribution) for its own sake, but that does not mean that it is put above everything else. That would be nuts. But it does not change the fact that we seek retribution for its own sake (save for illness/damage).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    So, rather than retribution being morally right regardless of consequences, it is morally right or morally not right regardless of consequences.
    Ok I think I understand you a bit better. You are saying for example that if it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit because you might hit someone, it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit even if you don't hit anyone. I think most laws already recognise that, yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The word 'justice' has more than one meaning. One of them - I would say the central and most important - is just retribution.
    Exactly. One of them. Possibly the most common, but that doesn't justify using 'justice' for 'retribution' since there are other forms of justice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    I said justice - i.e., retribution - is a good in an of itself.
    Justice is not 'ie retribution'. I think you should say 'retributive justice' is a good in an of itself, or 'retribution' is good in and of itself.

    Whether it necessarily is or not is what we are discussing, not assuming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The problem is that sometimes, it is not possible to mete out retribution without bringing about some bad things. Depending on the case, it would not be justified to do justice because of those other, further consequences.
    The problem, for retribution, as I see it is that sometimes, by the same token and on the same terms, non-retribution can be said to be a good thing, or just the lesser claim that sometimes retribution is not a good thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Still, you should know most retributivists accept that sometimes it is reasonable and acceptable not to do justice.
    That's useful to know, but it does not seem to be on the basis of accepting that sometimes non-retribution can be a good thing or that sometimes, retribution is not a good thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    That is not consequentialism, in any usual sense of the term.
    It's based on consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    The strong/absolutist sort seems almost impossible to defend.
    Who defends it?
    At the moment, I'm still thinking you do, despite the caveats about not being retributive because of consequences. You seem to be reluctant to say 'non-retribution can sometimes be a good thing' or 'sometimes retribution is not a good thing.'

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    You're conflating what caused our faculty or what gives us information to make judgments with what matters morally when it comes to making those judgments.
    I don't think I am. What I am saying is that when you make any individual moral judgement, the antecedent (in evolutionary terms for example but also just historical) actual consequences (consequences that actually happened, in the past, to your ancestors, and possibly even to you) are effectively actively in play (in your brain, one way or another, often by being 'encoded information that is called upon') each time, and therefore matter, each time. How could that be something that doesn't matter in any given instance?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    No, our moral sense is not like that. Our judgments and motivation are not like that.
    Says you, via analogies that may or may not be pertinent. Your analogies could be apples. Morality could be an orange.

    I'm not even sure saying, "whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous" is correct. As far as I know the most commonly cited elicitors of disgust, across cultures, are all things that can potentially transmit infections.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    And whether something is morally wrong does not depend on its actual consequences.
    Not the ones that are the outcome in a particular case perhaps, yes, but in the end it depends on actual (albeit previous) consequences from past judgements, in the way I am saying. So we can say moral judgements are ultimately the result of things called consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Great, so staying alive is a final goal. You do not seek it for a further goal, but for its own sake. But that does not mean that you will put that goal above everything else. You probably will not, as there are worse things. Similarly, we humans seek justice (i.e., retribution) for its own sake, but that does not mean that it is put above everything else. That would be nuts. But it does not change the fact that we seek retribution for its own sake (save for illness/damage).
    Well, now I know your motivation (even though I think I already knew it). You, Angra, seek retribution for its own sake or because you believe it is good, of itself. I'm not sure all humans do, always. Some seem to think that forgiveness is good instead, in certain situations. I would guess that nearly everyone thinks that at least some of the time, depending on the situation. In fact, it's often regarded as a virtue, something admirable to aspire to.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-11-2020 at 03:21 PM.
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    Those who've wronged us are likely to so again. So, an aggressive response to those who have wronged us is very often protective, preventative, and highly adaptive, as are the the feelings of anger and hate that fuel those actions. Of course, some of those who wrong us are our gene-sharing kin, and thus some degree of moderation or forgiveness in our response is also adaptive. And even less related people in our social network are allies whose net benefit to us often outweighs their wrongdoing. Thus, a measured response that corresponds to the context of the severity of the wrong and what it reflects about the danger the person poses is the most adaptive.

    But in the long run, what matters is not what is optimal for a specific wrong doing, but what has the greatest net benefit in the long term. People engage in actions that harm others based upon anticipated consequences that determine the cost-benefit ratio to themselves. There are situations where forgiveness and lack of retribution would be most beneficial in the short run, such as an otherwise positive contributor who you have reason to suspect was just reacting to a rare specific situation . However, context-dependent responses create ambiguity and uncertainty in the minds of others as to whether "immoral" harmful acts will result in negative consequences to themselves. This would decrease the anticipated costs of immoral actions and thus increase their prevalence in the long term. Thus, clear-cut predictable punishments for a given infraction, regardless of some extenuating circumstances, may have the greatest long term benefit of reducing such harmful actions.

    Of course, all of this is couched within a presumption that being caught for infractions is probable. In the small clans within which most of human evolution occurred this was often the case. But in massive modern societies where most people are strangers to each other, the odds of getting caught are much lower. IF the odds of getting caught are low, then there is no incentive for people to consider the level of punishment when caught into their decision on how to act. In that case, punishments have less general deterrence effect, so then making case-specific reactions and context-dependent forgiveness may be the best option.

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    Forget the philosophizing please. Give some answers instead, please. Forgive or not? And if yes, who is to do the forgiving?

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-51458949

    I know there are many ways to weasel out of an answer. Just hopin'...

    Then this:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-46292919


    An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day, according to new data released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    They say it makes "the home the most likely place for a woman to be killed".

    More than half of the 87,000 women killed in 2017 were reported as dying at the hands of those closest to them.

    Of that figure, approximately 30,000 women were killed by an intimate partner and another 20,000 by a relative
    Thank you for reading this far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Ok I think I understand you a bit better. You are saying for example that if it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit because you might hit someone, it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit even if you don't hit anyone. I think most laws already recognise that, yes.
    Yes, but I also think that provided that the mental behavior is the same (that part is crucial), the degree of immorality would be the same. The law does not seem to reflect that, for a number of reasons, perhaps related to social peace, limited resources and stuff like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Exactly. One of them. Possibly the most common, but that doesn't justify using 'justice' for 'retribution' since there are other forms of justice.
    Suppose word A has meanings M1 and M2, it is proper to use it to mean M1. Now suppose word B means M1. Is it proper to use A rather than B to mean M1? Sure, it's one of the meanings of A, so provided that one is clear (and that is usually given by context), that's okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Justice is not 'ie retribution'. I think you should say 'retributive justice' is a good in an of itself, or 'retribution' is good in and of itself.
    Well, justice is retribution in one of the meanings of the word - possibly the most common -, so using that word in that sense is proper.

    But if you prefer another term, how about 'just retribution'?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    The problem, for retribution, as I see it is that sometimes, by the same token and on the same terms, non-retribution can be said to be a good thing, or just the lesser claim that sometimes retribution is not a good thing.
    Things other than just retribution can be good things, but the lack of just retribution per se is a bad thing. It's a form of injustice.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    That's useful to know, but it does not seem to be on the basis of accepting that sometimes non-retribution can be a good thing or that sometimes, retribution is not a good thing.
    An act of unjust retribution is not a good thing. As for just retribution, that is not bad, but the act can have other, bad characteristics, like lack of precaution.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    It's based on consequences.
    That's extremely ambiguous 'based on'. Consequentialisms (there are several) says we have an obligation to maximize happiness or the good, or minimize suffering, things like that (or minimum) X, where X is something like happiness, or even good, or (suffering). I do not believe we have that obligation in general. I do think sometimes we have obligations to prevent bad things or to bring about good ones, depending on the case. In particular, while I think just retribution is a good, we often do not have an obligation to inflict it on others we don't have an obligation not to, either, and sometimes we have an obligation not to because it would (based on the info available to use) bring about very bad things.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    At the moment, I'm still thinking you do, despite the caveats about not being retributive because of consequences. You seem to be reluctant to say 'non-retribution can sometimes be a good thing' or 'sometimes retribution is not a good thing.'
    Assuming by 'retribution' you mean 'just retribution' (which is okay; it's a common usage of the term), I'm reluctant to make ambiguous statements - actually I choose not to -, and those would be ambiguous.

    Imagine the king's son raped a poor woman, for fun. The father has a chance to get close enough to beat him up in retaliation. But he knows based on previous events that if he does that, his family will be round up and burned alive. Sure, it would be immoral on his part to bring about just retribution in that context. But what makes his action - or rather his decisions, but they are intertwined with the actions in most cases - immoral is that he is acting despite the terrible consequences for innocent people. The fact that it is an act of retribution does not make it wrong - since it is just retribution.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I don't think I am. What I am saying is that when you make any individual moral judgement, the antecedent (in evolutionary terms for example but also just historical) actual consequences (consequences that actually happened, in the past, to your ancestors, and possibly even to you) are effectively actively in play (in your brain, one way or another, often by being 'encoded information that is called upon') each time, and therefore matter, each time. How could that be something that doesn't matter in any given instance?
    Because that is not what makes the behavior of the person we are judging morally wrong, morally praiseworthy, or whatever it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Says you, via analogies that may or may not be pertinent. Your analogies could be apples. Morality could be an orange.
    What analogies? No, actually, I say that our moral sense is not like that based on observations of how people behave and make moral judgments. Consequentialism - in any form that makes predictions - is falsified by testing it against our intuitive moral sense.


    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I'm not even sure saying, "whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous" is correct. As far as I know the most commonly cited elicitors of disgust, across cultures, are all things that can potentially transmit infections.
    But it does not depend on whether it is nutritious or poisonous, but rather, on whether it has other properties that usually go together with those things, and prompted the evolution of our sense of taste. Let me put it this way: you can get a very nutritious food, put it a disgusting artificial flavor, and it will be disgusting even if not poisonous and very nutritious. Of course, it is also possible to make things that taste very well - to all normal humans - but are lethal.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Not the ones that are the outcome in a particular case perhaps, yes, but in the end it depends on actual (albeit previous) consequences from past judgements, in the way I am saying. So we can say moral judgements are ultimately the result of things called consequences.
    That's the conflation I'm talking about.
    The consequences of long past judgments only matters in the sense that that - together with a number of other factors - contributed causally to our having the moral sense we have. On the other hand, nothing that happened millions of years ago is a factor when assessing whether McConnell behaved immorally. The factors are all mental properties of McConnell.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Well, now I know your motivation (even though I think I already knew it). You, Angra, seek retribution for its own sake or because you believe it is good, of itself. I'm not sure all humans do, always. Some seem to think that forgiveness is good instead, in certain situations. I would guess that nearly everyone thinks that at least some of the time, depending on the situation. In fact, it's often regarded as a virtue, something admirable to aspire to.
    I did not say all humans do, always. My position is that all humans do, sometimes, unless something is wrong with some part of their brains.

    As for forgiveness, it depends on the circumstances, but sure, an act of forgiveness can be good overall due to such-and-such results, though I do not think it is good on its own - of course, we are talking about forgiving someone who deserves to be punished. But it's not the lack of just retribution that makes it good - in fact, that is a negative -, but other things that sometimes might outweigh that negative enough to justify the action.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Yes, but I also think that provided that the mental behavior is the same (that part is crucial), the degree of immorality would be the same. The law does not seem to reflect that, for a number of reasons, perhaps related to social peace, limited resources and stuff like that.
    Yes, we could say that if it is immoral to do it, it should be as immoral even if there are no actual adverse consequences in a particular case, and we might even say that if we are going to punish, the punishment should be the same. But as you say, it doesn't seem to work like that. It may be because of the things you suggest. Personally I would think that what's happening is that laws treat actual and potential consequences (in this case actual and potential damage or harm) differently. When there is actual damage or harm resulting from a particular act, this is seen to be worthy of more severe punishment. In some ways, the distinction makes sense. And in the end it's all consequence-based (whether actual or potential consequences).


    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But if you prefer another term, how about 'just retribution'?
    Possibly, I'm not sure. The prefix seems to imply that that sort of retribution is necessarily just, which is the claim we are disagreeing about. If we say 'just retribution is just' it's merely a tautology. So because I think it might be confusing, I'm going to use the term retribution. I understand that there could be both just and unjust types. I'm not sure what word I would prefer for the type you are calling 'just'. Perhaps 'accurate retribution', in that it punishes the person who did the act in question, not someone else? We could also bring in whether it's proportionate or not but I think that's slightly secondary, albeit related.

    I think I'm ok with saying 'retributive justice' instead of 'justice' because that doesn't seem to imply that the justice is in fact just. Or maybe it does. I'm a bit confused. You could even merely say 'justice' so long as we both know you mean what it claims to be rather than what it necessarily is. In the main, our justice system is retributive (or has that component) so it's understandable to colloquially equate the two, but bear in mind that our system is not necessarily the best one possible, though I am not claiming it does not work well, only that it might hypothetically work better, perhaps. Iow, ours might be too retributive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    ..... the lack of just retribution per se is a bad thing. It's a form of injustice.
    It would be, if what I called accurate retribution were always just, in the sense of being the right thing. In the case of a particular just retribution it would be a tautology.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    It's based on consequences.
    That's extremely ambiguous 'based on'.
    I don't see how it's ambiguous at all, given everything I said about it. Our morality, an evolved trait/capacity, is based on, exists because of, consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Consequentialisms (there are several) says we have an obligation to maximize happiness or the good, or minimize suffering, things like that (or minimum) X, where X is something like happiness, or even good, or (suffering). I do not believe we have that obligation in general. I do think sometimes we have obligations to prevent bad things or to bring about good ones, depending on the case. In particular, while I think just retribution is a good, we often do not have an obligation to inflict it on others we don't have an obligation not to, either, and sometimes we have an obligation not to because it would (based on the info available to use) bring about very bad things.
    It slightly baffles me why you can't just say non-retribution (eg forgiveness), as an alternative to retribution, can sometimes be a good thing. I think it's because you are assuming something about what I called accurate retribution.

    I'm not sure I need to get into things like maximising or minimising good. Isn't that more like Utilitarianism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Imagine the king's son raped a poor woman, for fun. The father has a chance to get close enough to beat him up in retaliation. But he knows based on previous events that if he does that, his family will be round up and burned alive. Sure, it would be immoral on his part to bring about just retribution in that context. But what makes his action - or rather his decisions, but they are intertwined with the actions in most cases - immoral is that he is acting despite the terrible consequences for innocent people. The fact that it is an act of retribution does not make it wrong - since it is just retribution.
    I'm not sure I'm following that. It seems to be a scenario in which even the king himself feels that retribution would be the morally right thing to do. So it's merely not acting on a moral judgement (for whatever reasons) rather than not making the judgement regarding the essential rightness of retribution.

    I offered a scenario in which a starving person steals some food. Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?

    I also mentioned Gordon Wilson, the man who, apparently immediately, forgave the terrorists who killed his daughter. He even used the term 'dirty words' to describe what he was eschewing (retibution). There are other cases of forgiveness like that. It is as if those doing the forgiving believe it is a virtue, a good and right thing to do, of itself.

    Now, maybe they are deceiving themselves. I think they are, in the end. Because as with punishment, I am bound to say that forgiveness is merely a tool in an evolved/learned toolbox, and neither right nor wrong, of itself, and in the end, consequence-based (in the way I am talking about). I think I would have to say that, in order to be consistent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    I don't think I am. What I am saying is that when you make any individual moral judgement, the antecedent (in evolutionary terms for example but also just historical) actual consequences (consequences that actually happened, in the past, to your ancestors, and possibly even to you) are effectively actively in play (in your brain, one way or another, often by being 'encoded information that is called upon') each time, and therefore matter, each time. How could that be something that doesn't matter in any given instance?
    Because that is not what makes the behavior of the person we are judging morally wrong, morally praiseworthy, or whatever it is.
    I think it is what makes it morally right or wrong. I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter. There is only our evolved sense of what is right and wrong, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    What analogies?
    With gustatory taste for example. That's an analogy to morality. I'm not saying it's not a good analogy, it might be, but I don't know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    No, actually, I say that our moral sense is not like that based on observations of how people behave and make moral judgments.
    I'm not following. Sometimes people forgive. Are you not observing that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Consequentialism - in any form that makes predictions - is falsified by testing it against our intuitive moral sense.
    How so? I'm not seeing that at all. Or are you merely discounting forgiveness from being an intuitive moral sense?

    I think I'm on the brink of calling myself a type of consequentialist. I'd be willing to be the subject of an attempt to falsify that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    That's the conflation I'm talking about.
    I don't think it's a conflation. I'm making a distinction. There are the actual consequences that result in any one case and there are (or rather were) the actual consequences that formed the morality. As regards a particular moral judgement, the latter are encoded (whether perceived consciously or not) as 'potential consequences' that the system (your brain) factors in during its processes. Your moral sense is the output of those brain processes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The consequences of long past judgments only matters in the sense that that - together with a number of other factors - contributed causally to our having the moral sense we have.
    Exactly. And the moral senses we have are effectively the moral judgements, so they are the result of actual consequences that happened.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    On the other hand, nothing that happened millions of years ago is a factor when assessing whether McConnell behaved immorally
    I disagree, the assessment of whether M acted immorally is in the brain of the assessor(s) of M, and the way their brains work in that regard is a physical manifestation of the outcome of all the consequences that happened in evolutionary terms, and possibly to some extent personal history terms. Now, a caveat might be that M also has a brain, so that brain is also making judgements (assessing itself) by the same processes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    The factors are all mental properties of McConnell.
    I agree that M is probably judging his own actions, but to say that all the relevant factors are in his head seems very odd.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    Well, now I know your motivation (even though I think I already knew it). You, Angra, seek retribution for its own sake or because you believe it is good, of itself. I'm not sure all humans do, always. Some seem to think that forgiveness is good instead, in certain situations. I would guess that nearly everyone thinks that at least some of the time, depending on the situation. In fact, it's often regarded as a virtue, something admirable to aspire to.
    I did not say all humans do, always. My position is that all humans do, sometimes, unless something is wrong with some part of their brains.
    All ('non-defective') humans do what sometimes? Seek retribution for it's own sake, because they feel it is good of itself? Sure. It's probably fair to say that all humans do that, sometimes. Other times, they seem to forgive instead. That would leave us with the claim that retribution is (or is deemed, which would be a lesser claim, and probably more correct, imo) good/right of itself except when it isn't.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    As for forgiveness, it depends on the circumstances, but sure, an act of forgiveness can be good overall due to such-and-such results, though I do not think it is good on its own - of course, we are talking about forgiving someone who deserves to be punished. But it's not the lack of just retribution that makes it good - in fact, that is a negative -, but other things that sometimes might outweigh that negative enough to justify the action.
    I know you don't think forgiveness is a good on its own, and that you think (accurately-targeted) retribution is a good on its own, but at the moment, both of those just seems to be merely your personal claims, albeit shared by other people, but not all people in all circumstances.


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    Let me sum up my claims. Human morality exists in the brains of humans. It consists of the moral judgements those brains make. As such they are things that are deemed (regarded or considered by human brains) to be, not things that have an independent existence. Those brains, and therefore the moral judgements they make, are the results of both evolutionary and personal history, which consisted (past tense) of actual outcomes (consequences) and consists (present tense) of the responses of physical brain structures to certain situations. The capacity to punish and the capacity to forgive are both capacities that have evolved and/or been learned, and are widespread (exist in all 'properly-functioning' humans, temporarily assuming there is such a thing*). They are two 'tools in our toolbox'. They will manifest at different times in different scenarios. One is as intrinsically as valid as the other, but there may be far fewer situations in which forgiveness is and has been the more useful tool. But it is likely that both are adaptive as part of complicated, nuanced strategies that either work well or don't work well. In the end, the relative success or failure of all strategies is subject to blind processes such as natural selection. There is no independent or non-naturalistic moral right or wrong beyond that.




    * On which point, it may be interesting to note that there are gender differences in morality, it seems. In some situations, women are (at least somewhat) more prone to forgive rather than punish, and in some situations men are more prone to do that. This may throw up the issue of which gender has the 'properly functioning' brain in each type of situation.

    That is one reason I am not sure about the term 'properly functioning brain'.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-12-2020 at 12:50 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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