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    RETRIBUTIVISM

    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.

    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.

    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?

    Which, if true, would suggest that adhering strictly and only to retribution is at best simplistic and at worst an unsuitable approach?

    Also, retribution is usually (I think) described by retributivists as being morally right regardless of consequences. I really don't get that part. 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?

    Evolution is blind and natural selection is ruthless. What works survives, in the long term. As such, retribution is surely based on consequences?
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-09-2020 at 11:04 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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    D-E-T-E-R-E-N-T

    It is retribution/punishment vs rehabilitation.

    Here in Seattle it has gone from punishment to little or no incarceration's/punishment. The result is a mass shooting a few weeks ago by two people with a long list of felonies, arrests, and releases.

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    In a world where we're essentially trying to survive and reproduce, the tit-for-tat strategy makes sense. People who contribute to society and personal relationships typically get a return, people who detract from society are punished. This has the effect of filtering out bad actors, and making it such that most of us behave in a fair way, allowing us to cooperate.

    Rising above this is an even more effective strategy for the individual, but evolution is a numbers game and oriented to the individual - not the greater good of a community. In that context retribution is a more powerful force because it's a behavior that filters out malevolent, and morally inept people. If we're forgiving to our dickhead boyfriend, and take him back, we produce more dickhead boyfriends. Whereas if we believe he deserves to be let go for his behavior, we find a more suitable mate.

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    Aside from its Mumbo-Jumbo the Hebrew Kabbalah has it about right. But who decides what is "extreme"?


    ............ different aspects of Morality. Loving-Kindness is a possible moral justification found in Chessed, and Gevurah is the Moral Justification of Justice and both are mediated by Mercy which is Rachamim. However, these pillars of morality become immoral once they become extremes. When Loving-Kindness becomes extreme it can lead to sexual depravity and lack of Justice to the wicked. When Justice becomes extreme, it can lead to torture and the Murder of innocents and unfair punishment.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah#Divine_Feminine
    Last edited by 4321lynx; 02-10-2020 at 04:05 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    In a world where we're essentially trying to survive and reproduce, the tit-for-tat strategy makes sense. People who contribute to society and personal relationships typically get a return, people who detract from society are punished. This has the effect of filtering out bad actors, and making it such that most of us behave in a fair way, allowing us to cooperate.

    Rising above this is an even more effective strategy for the individual, but evolution is a numbers game and oriented to the individual - not the greater good of a community. In that context retribution is a more powerful force because it's a behavior that filters out malevolent, and morally inept people. If we're forgiving to our dickhead boyfriend, and take him back, we produce more dickhead boyfriends. Whereas if we believe he deserves to be let go for his behavior, we find a more suitable mate.
    I generally agree, and good example at the end there. How about if it's not a boyfriend but a cheating husband that you already have children with. Then, forgiveness, even unconditional forgiveness without retribution, might, of itself, better ensure the survival (or just the meeting of the needs) of the existing children (and possibly the creation of more, which is good news for the species in numbers terms, even allowing for the increased possibility of passing on a 'cheating dickhead gene', if there is such a thing) as well as being better (healthier, physiologically) for the forgiving partner and possibly even the transgressing one (which could then feed in as a benefit to the offspring). And indeed in groups and perhaps even societies where collectivist, cooperative and interdependent principles are either dominant or a significant feature, there might also be at least some long term group benefits. That might have been particularly the case when we lived in small groups, where cooperative reciprocity, altruism and close, permanent/ongoing group relationships mattered more.

    I'm not saying forgiveness is necessarily a moral 'good' that trumps retribution, I would doubt it is, just that it could perhaps be part of the mix, that it can (at times) be an adaptive trait, that the 'rights' and 'wrongs' (of retribution versus non-retribution) are situation-dependent, and various factors may be interacting in different ways in different situations.

    Regarding tit-for-tat, I read that there are 'prisoner's dilemma' game theory iterations where inclusion of forgiveness in the game strategy outperforms tit-for-tat based strategies. But I think it's fair to say that the success of game strategies depends on various factors. It is said that there really is no "best" strategy for prisoner's dilemma. Each individual strategy will apparently work best when matched against a "worse" strategy. In order to win, a player must figure out his opponent's strategy and then pick a strategy that is best suited for the situation.

    I also read that retribution can facilitate forgiveness. This makes sense. It often or generally seems (is) easier to forgive someone after they have been punished first, after they have paid the price of atonement.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-10-2020 at 11:59 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    D-E-T-E-R-E-N-T

    It is retribution/punishment vs rehabilitation.

    Here in Seattle it has gone from punishment to little or no incarceration's/punishment. The result is a mass shooting a few weeks ago by two people with a long list of felonies, arrests, and releases.
    Yes, but one interesting aspect of retributivism, as I understand it, is that punishment in the form of retribution is held to be morally right of itself, regardless of other considerations such as deterrence, isolation from (and protection of) other citizens & rehabilitation, and indeed regardless of any consequences. The last one in particular makes no sense to me at this point.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-10-2020 at 12:15 PM.
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    The other thing that seems to me to matter, as well as consequences, are antecedents.

    So let's say someone breaks into your home while you are asleep upstairs and steals all your food.

    I am tempted to make the thief 'one of your own daughters' to see how that affects things, but I won't. I'll just say that the thief is someone that you know (or find out after) is penniless and starving, through what I am going to call 'no fault of their own'. You come to believe that you have a lovely house full of nice stuff for reasons that are not entirely to do with your own efforts, you are in some ways lucky, or the beneficiary of a system that favours your kind.

    Is retribution or forgiveness more appropriate in that situation? I can see how a case could be made either way, but I can't see that either is necessarily morally right of itself.

    I would however tend to think that consequences would overrule antecedents in the long run. In other words a policy of forgiveness in situations like that, even if it were or seemed morally right (in the moment, at the time, given the antecedents), would likely not survive in the long run if the consequences for such an approach generally tended to be overall adverse for the forgiver and/or their tribe or society.

    Does it matter what the damage was? Food is one thing (and possibly also property and even money) and so is personal harm that will heal (eg a bruising injury of some sort caused by the intruder after they have woken you and you confront them) but what if the thief blinded you (eg with strong acid) and you did not and weren't ever going to recover your eyesight? So that is probably going to make forgiveness harder (though not impossible) but does it then make retribution morally right? And if it did, would that just be one possible view and not an objective moral principle?
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-10-2020 at 02:26 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    In a world where we're essentially trying to survive and reproduce, the tit-for-tat strategy makes sense. People who contribute to society and personal relationships typically get a return, people who detract from society are punished. This has the effect of filtering out bad actors, and making it such that most of us behave in a fair way, allowing us to cooperate.

    Rising above this is an even more effective strategy for the individual, but evolution is a numbers game and oriented to the individual - not the greater good of a community. In that context retribution is a more powerful force because it's a behavior that filters out malevolent, and morally inept people. If we're forgiving to our dickhead boyfriend, and take him back, we produce more dickhead boyfriends. Whereas if we believe he deserves to be let go for his behavior, we find a more suitable mate.
    I generally agree, and good example at the end there. How about if it's not a boyfriend but a cheating husband that you already have children with. Then, forgiveness, even unconditional forgiveness without retribution, might, of itself, better ensure the survival (or just the meeting of the needs) of the existing children (and possibly the creation of more, which is good news for the species in numbers terms, even allowing for the increased possibility of passing on a 'cheating dickhead gene', if there is such a thing) as well as being better (healthier, physiologically) for the forgiving partner and possibly even the transgressing one (which could then feed in as a benefit to the offspring). And indeed in groups and perhaps even societies where collectivist, cooperative and interdependent principles are either dominant or a significant feature, there might also be at least some long term group benefits. That might have been particularly the case when we lived in small groups, where cooperative reciprocity, altruism and close, permanent/ongoing group relationships mattered more.

    I'm not saying forgiveness is necessarily a moral 'good' that trumps retribution, I would doubt it is, just that it could perhaps be part of the mix, that it can (at times) be an adaptive trait, that the 'rights' and 'wrongs' (of retribution versus non-retribution) are situation-dependent, and various factors may be interacting in different ways in different situations.

    Regarding tit-for-tat, I read that there are 'prisoner's dilemma' game theory iterations where inclusion of forgiveness in the game strategy outperforms tit-for-tat based strategies. But I think it's fair to say that the success of game strategies depends on various factors. It is said that there really is no "best" strategy for prisoner's dilemma. Each individual strategy will apparently work best when matched against a "worse" strategy. In order to win, a player must figure out his opponent's strategy and then pick a strategy that is best suited for the situation.

    I also read that retribution can facilitate forgiveness. This makes sense. It often or generally seems (is) easier to forgive someone after they have been punished first, after they have paid the price of atonement.
    IMO I'd forget any notions of evolution and good for the species, at least any further than it takes to create a cooperative enough species to create stable conditions to reproduce.

    But yea, forgiveness would be a thing too, but instead of calling it forgiveness I'd call it psychological flexibility. Think of retribution as something like a visceral, lizard brain response, and forgiveness as something that would come from higher order thinking to override the visceral reaction. For many, there's mostly just a lizard brain response and that serves them well enough, but when the situation is dire enough a little bit of psychological flexibility helps too in cases like you mention. If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example. The ultimate goal is always to produce a baby / survive, so when retribution stops serving that goal we may use psychological flexibility instead. Unless we're too dumb to do so, then our lack of that behavior gets filtered out of the gene pool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    But yea, forgiveness would be a thing too, but instead of calling it forgiveness I'd call it psychological flexibility. Think of retribution as something like a visceral, lizard brain response, and forgiveness as something that would come from higher order thinking to override the visceral reaction. For many, there's mostly just a lizard brain response and that serves them well enough, but when the situation is dire enough a little bit of psychological flexibility helps too in cases like you mention. If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example. The ultimate goal is always to produce a baby / survive, so when retribution stops serving that goal we may use psychological flexibility instead. Unless we're too dumb to do so, then our lack of that behavior gets filtered out of the gene pool.
    Ok, but maybe calling forgiveness the flexibility not to punish is robbing it of being something in its own right, as it were. As would, I think, calling cooperation merely the flexibility not to compete.

    As far as I know, both retribution and forgiveness have neural correlates, but I don't think one is in the primitive part of the brain and the other isn't?

    Also, when you said, "If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example" that didn't seem to imply actual forgiveness.

    Otherwise, I largely agree. It does feel as if a retributive urge comes more readily and obviously, in more situations. On the other hand, I read that forgiveness (and cooperation) have only been extensively studied more recently than retribution and competition, so maybe they have been somewhat neglected phenomena.
    "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 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    But yea, forgiveness would be a thing too, but instead of calling it forgiveness I'd call it psychological flexibility. Think of retribution as something like a visceral, lizard brain response, and forgiveness as something that would come from higher order thinking to override the visceral reaction. For many, there's mostly just a lizard brain response and that serves them well enough, but when the situation is dire enough a little bit of psychological flexibility helps too in cases like you mention. If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example. The ultimate goal is always to produce a baby / survive, so when retribution stops serving that goal we may use psychological flexibility instead. Unless we're too dumb to do so, then our lack of that behavior gets filtered out of the gene pool.
    Ok, but maybe calling forgiveness the flexibility not to punish is robbing it of being something in its own right, as it were. As would, I think, calling cooperation merely the flexibility not to compete.

    As far as I know, both retribution and forgiveness have neural correlates, but I don't think one is in the primitive part of the brain and the other isn't?
    Maybe as a behavior they have an independent existence, and it's certainly possible that they have a neural correlate, I really have no idea. But my guess would be that their root cause would come from a more general intelligence quotient. Where the brain is a kind of multi-purpose tool, the tool manifesting itself in different behaviors, but where the cause is just intelligence and ability for higher order thinking. IOW, 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.

    Also, when you said, "If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example" that didn't seem to imply actual forgiveness.

    Otherwise, I largely agree. It does feel as if a retributive urge comes more readily and obviously, in more situations. On the other hand, I read that forgiveness (and cooperation) have only been extensively studied more recently than retribution and competition, so maybe they have been somewhat neglected phenomena.
    Depends on your definition of forgiveness, whether that's an emotional or material one. In a certain perspective as long as we change courses that could be considered forgiveness. A change of attitude rather than a change of feeling.

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