Does Society Need Prisons?

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 3rd, 2018, 6:32 pm

GE Morton wrote:
October 2nd, 2018, 6:27 pm
ThomasHobbes wrote:
October 2nd, 2018, 4:58 pm

All members of society have a moral duty to the rest of society. If you ain't worked that out you are just immoral.
There are, and can be, no duties to "society." Nor can "society" have duties to anyone. It is of the wrong ontological order for attaching moral predicates.
Morally bankrupt.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by GE Morton » October 3rd, 2018, 7:53 pm

Belindi wrote:
October 3rd, 2018, 5:07 pm

True, empathy involves emotion but especially emotion which has been refined through reason into feelings.
Are not emotion and feelings the same thing? If not,what is the difference?

I agree that emotional responses can be modified by reasoning in some cases. For example, Alfie may be angry at Bruno over some wrong Alfie believes Bruno committed. But reasoning may convince him that Bruno did not, in fact, commit any wrong. Alfie's emotional attitude toward Bruno is thus modified. But what the reasoning altered was a belief of Alfie's. The altered belief then altered his emotions. Is that what you mean? If not, perhaps you can give an example of how an emotion can be "refined through reason" other than by altering some belief that spurs the emotion.
Reason is deficient unless it involves feelings.
In what way? Are feelings necessary for effective reasoning in, say, mathematics? Physics? Computer programming? Chess? Or are feelings only required when reasoning about moral philosophy? Are you suggesting that the validity of an argument is dependent in some way on the feelings of its author? Or only of moral arguments?

Moral philosophy, like law, is a product of civilization. Civilized societies are societies of strangers, i.e., communities of persons who have no natural bonds, no shared personal histories, and who do not, for the most part, take any interest in one another's interests, except to the extent they impinge upon their own. Civilized societies are not tribes, collectives, brotherhoods, teams, or "big happy families." They have no "organic unity." They are randomly-assembled groups of unrelated, independent, autonomous individuals with widely divergent goals, interests, and personas who happen, by accident of birth, to occupy a common territory.

Historically, most religions and political ideologies, from Plato onward, have promulgated moral doctrines aimed at restoring the feelings of fellowship, camaraderie, intimacy, and unity of purpose characteristic of tribal communities. That goal depends upon one-to-one personal relationships between all members, each with every other, and is impossible in societies of thousands or millions of members. A workable moral philosophy for a civilized society cannot depend upon all members valuing (or empathizing with) every other. They plainly do not, in any civilized society, as the endless conflicts, tensions, and hostilities within them show us on a daily basis. Nor can they ever --- because the interpersonal relationship prerequisites cannot be satisfied.

We need an ethic that acknowledges the structure of modern civilized societies, not one that atavistically strives to resurrect the ethos of an obsolete social form.
If you pardon the anachronism do you think that Jesus' message was socialist?
I think the Christian ethic is an example of an archaic ethic of the type described above, as is socialism --- and fascism, for that matter (that doesn't mean they are all equivalent).

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by GE Morton » October 3rd, 2018, 9:29 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
October 3rd, 2018, 6:29 am

I would put it like this: Many propositions asserting moral principles or judgements are actually, on closer inspection, propositions as to what course of action will (the speaker suggests) most likely lead to what outcome. In other words, they are not, in themselves, declarations of the speaker's "core values" (as I've called them). They are propositions about cause and effect.
That is true too.
I agree that they have potential theoretical truth value if they are as I have described them above - theories about cause and effect. But if they are about what I have described as "core values" then I think arguing about them is analogous to trying to argue about personal taste. It's not possible because in this case they are the axioms on which the argument sits. Arguments about the rights and wrongs of abortion often illustrate particularly clearly what happens when core values differ and persuasion on the basis of rational argument (by either side) is therefore impossible.
The axioms of a sound moral theory do not assert, or presume, any particular values. They do assume that people value things, and that what they value varies from person to person. The task, then, is to develop rules of interaction which allow all agents in the moral field to maximize their welfare, which means, for each of them, enabling them to secure or preserve as many of the things they value as possible.

I like to analogize moral theory (a theory for generating moral rules) to system of traffic laws. The traffic engineer strives to design roads and devise rules for their use which allow all drivers to get where they are going as quickly as possible, without collisions.They do not presume to dictate destinations or routes or itineraries, nor do drivers care where others on the road are going or why they are going there. But if the road is well designed and the rules are followed, all will get wherever they're going in one piece.

BTW, I don't think the controversy over abortion reflects differences in values, or even in moral principles. Most on both sides would agree that murder is immoral. The controversy arises from a conceptual disagreement over what constitutes a "person," or a "moral agent," i.e., a being bound by moral rules and protected by those rules. "Pro-lifers" believe a human fetus is a person; "pro-choicers" deny that it is.
But also, even if our axioms are the same, it may be impossible in practice to agree because it may be (and frequently is) impossible in practice to unambiguously demonstrate causal links in an extremely complex world, most of which we only have indirect access to.
I agree. Whether a particular rule or principle or policy does in fact further progress toward the goal just given --- maximizing welfare for all agents --- is not always easy to answer prospectively. But the question is tractable; it can be answered empirically, by experiment or history, at least in principle.
Yes, these axioms are what I was referring to earlier as "core values"; the things that each speaker assumes to be the self-evident underlying goal of the exercise; the end to which all other sub-goals are a proposed means.
The goal offered above is not a "value," as most would understand that term.

Thanks for a lucid, thoughtful comment!

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Belindi » October 4th, 2018, 10:44 am

GE Morton in answer to your last to me:
An example of an emotion that is refined through reason to become a feeling is jealousy which is composed of the emotion of fear plus the cognition of the special nature of the threat. Another example of emotion that is refined through reason is romantic love which is sexual need plus a degree of idolising another person; idolising is cognitive and often socially engendered. Ambition is often the emotion of fear which is cognitively transmuted into intelligently motivated behaviour.
Your example about Alfie and Bruno I'd say involves anger which is a response to fear and however the participants rationalise their responses may alter the feelings involved so that for instance Alfie, or Bruno, may have mixed feelings. In short, much reasoning is actually rationalising.

Mathematics and formal logic are supremely objective activities. The natural sciences slightly less objective: the human sciences need special methods for eliminating as much as possible any subjectivity. The arts are of course subjective and involve feelings and usually communications, and this they have in common with human encounters and this is why we consider that medicine for instance is partly art; similarly international diplomacy. Teaching and child rearing are 'arts' insofar as they involve subjective feelings and communication.

Societies are to be differentiated from aggregations of individuals, because society is a useful category . Some aggregations of individuals cooperate in given tasks. Moreover these particular aggregations i.e. human societies are notable for transference of cultures of beliefs and practices over many generations so that useful learned responses are conserved. Occupying a common territory is often necessary but not sufficient for an aggregate of humans to be a society; in addition they cooperate with each other in some sort of organisation.Jews, for instance were territorially scattered , as are modern day Muslims, and such diaspora are societies.

Do you hold that the Christian ethic is both 'socialist' and obsolete?

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by GE Morton » October 5th, 2018, 12:03 am

Belindi wrote:
October 4th, 2018, 10:44 am

An example of an emotion that is refined through reason to become a feeling is jealousy which is composed of the emotion of fear plus the cognition of the special nature of the threat.
Animals display jealousy. Are they exercising reason too? All emotional responses presume some sort of perception, Belindi --- an apprehension of a situation that triggers the response. Apprehending a situation does not constitute reasoning about it. Jealousy is a complex emotion, of which fear is an element, but it does not depend upon any sort of reasoning.

"Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses feelings ranging from fear of abandonment to rage and humiliation."

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/jealousy
Another example of emotion that is refined through reason is romantic love which is sexual need plus a degree of idolising another person; idolising is cognitive and often socially engendered.
Animals also display love. Many pair-bond, some for life; mothers nuture and protect their offspring --- behaviors we take, in humans, to be expressions of love.
Mathematics and formal logic are supremely objective activities. The natural sciences slightly less objective: the human sciences need special methods for eliminating as much as possible any subjectivity. The arts are of course subjective and involve feelings and usually communications, and this they have in common with human encounters and this is why we consider that medicine for instance is partly art; similarly international diplomacy. Teaching and child rearing are 'arts' insofar as they involve subjective feelings and communication.
I agree with that, for the most part. But the question was, Can a sound moral theory include an emotional component? You mentioned medicine --- yes, feelings, such as empathy, are beneficial in medical practice. But are they useful in developing a theory of heredity, or or oncogenesis, or of some communicable disease?
Societies are to be differentiated from aggregations of individuals, because society is a useful category.
Yes, it is. But it is not a moral agent, and attributing moral properties to it --- other than as shorthand generalizations over the properties of its members --- is a category mistake.
Occupying a common territory is often necessary but not sufficient for an aggregate of humans to be a society; in addition they cooperate with each other in some sort of organisation.
Yes. I said that a "society" is a number of persons so positioned as to be able to interact, and who do interact. Societies may be deliberately formed, such as Britain's Royal Society, or arise naturally, when a number of persons come to occupy a common territory (usually by being born there) and begin to interact.
Do you hold that the Christian ethic is both 'socialist' and obsolete?
Christianity is not an economic doctrine, and therefore not "socialist." But the ethic it promotes is congenial to socialism. Both the ethic and socialist economic theory are relics of the tribal era of human society.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Belindi » October 6th, 2018, 7:02 pm

GE Morton wrote:
October 5th, 2018, 12:03 am
Belindi wrote:
October 4th, 2018, 10:44 am

An example of an emotion that is refined through reason to become a feeling is jealousy which is composed of the emotion of fear plus the cognition of the special nature of the threat.
Animals display jealousy. Are they exercising reason too? All emotional responses presume some sort of perception, Belindi --- an apprehension of a situation that triggers the response. Apprehending a situation does not constitute reasoning about it. Jealousy is a complex emotion, of which fear is an element, but it does not depend upon any sort of reasoning.

"Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses feelings ranging from fear of abandonment to rage and humiliation."

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/jealousy
Another example of emotion that is refined through reason is romantic love which is sexual need plus a degree of idolising another person; idolising is cognitive and often socially engendered.
Animals also display love. Many pair-bond, some for life; mothers nuture and protect their offspring --- behaviors we take, in humans, to be expressions of love.
Mathematics and formal logic are supremely objective activities. The natural sciences slightly less objective: the human sciences need special methods for eliminating as much as possible any subjectivity. The arts are of course subjective and involve feelings and usually communications, and this they have in common with human encounters and this is why we consider that medicine for instance is partly art; similarly international diplomacy. Teaching and child rearing are 'arts' insofar as they involve subjective feelings and communication.
I agree with that, for the most part. But the question was, Can a sound moral theory include an emotional component? You mentioned medicine --- yes, feelings, such as empathy, are beneficial in medical practice. But are they useful in developing a theory of heredity, or or oncogenesis, or of some communicable disease?
Societies are to be differentiated from aggregations of individuals, because society is a useful category.
Yes, it is. But it is not a moral agent, and attributing moral properties to it --- other than as shorthand generalizations over the properties of its members --- is a category mistake.
Occupying a common territory is often necessary but not sufficient for an aggregate of humans to be a society; in addition they cooperate with each other in some sort of organisation.
Yes. I said that a "society" is a number of persons so positioned as to be able to interact, and who do interact. Societies may be deliberately formed, such as Britain's Royal Society, or arise naturally, when a number of persons come to occupy a common territory (usually by being born there) and begin to interact.
Do you hold that the Christian ethic is both 'socialist' and obsolete?
Christianity is not an economic doctrine, and therefore not "socialist." But the ethic it promotes is congenial to socialism. Both the ethic and socialist economic theory are relics of the tribal era of human society.
I'd agree that it's not usual to distinguish between feelings and emotions. The benefit of the distinction is that it allows the claim that the more reasoning , knowledge, and critical judgement are used to refine and modify an emotional reaction the more true to realty it will be. So the human who reflects with insight and knowledge will be wise and prudent, compared for instance with someone who reacts with anger, panic, or sexual lust.
I've never known or heard of an animal who exhibits jealousy unless the story is fiction. I have known a few possessive dogs who feel threatened by another dog, and react aggressively.To call this reaction jealousy is anthropomorphic.Human feelings are a lot more complex.

A society is a moral agent under the conditions where the ruling elite control(s) to such an extent that the ruled do not know who they are.It is right and proper that we condemn some societies as evil.

The Christian message is tribal? I would have thought the Christian message, especially as modified by St Paul, is the very opposite. The Christian ethic is universalistic ,not tribal, surely!

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by GE Morton » October 6th, 2018, 7:57 pm

Belindi wrote:
October 6th, 2018, 7:02 pm

I've never known or heard of an animal who exhibits jealousy unless the story is fiction. I have known a few possessive dogs who feel threatened by another dog, and react aggressively.To call this reaction jealousy is anthropomorphic.Human feelings are a lot more complex.
Here is a non-fiction story. I have a neutered mackerel tabby tomcat, Junior. There is also a semi-feral orange tabby, Julius, who shows up irregularly for a handout; he's been coming around for several years. I keep a food dish on the back porch for him. These two cats get along well, often snoozing close to one another on the porch (screened but open). If I notice Julius on the porch, and his food dish is empty, I fill it up. Junior, if out there, just watches as Julius eats. But sometimes before filling Julius's dish I reach down and give him a few strokes. Junior doesn't like that! He will get up, meow loudly, brush against my hand or leg, and take a swat or two at Julius.

Many dog owners report similar behaviors from their animals.

If we observed similar behaviors on the part of humans we'd call it jealousy. If an animal's behavior is similar to a human behavior it is not "anthropomorphic" or anthropocentric to impute similar motives to them. Some behaviors and responses are just "mammalian."

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28446512
A society is a moral agent under the conditions where the ruling elite control(s) to such an extent that the ruled do not know who they are.It is right and proper that we condemn some societies as evil.
The only way a society can be evil is if there are evil people in it. The evil deeds are committed by people --- particular people, not the abstraction "society."
The Christian message is tribal? I would have thought the Christian message, especially as modified by St Paul, is the very opposite. The Christian ethic is universalistic ,not tribal, surely!
The error is in trying to universalize an ethic that arose and is only workable in a small group.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Belindi » October 7th, 2018, 5:42 pm

CE Morton,
Regarding your cats I agree that this looks exactly like human jealousy. My contention that this cannot be so is founded upon my theory that cats, for instance, don't participate in complex cultures of belief, mediated in language,like what humans do.

You wrote:
The only way a society can be evil is if there are evil people in it. The evil deeds are committed by people --- particular people, not the abstraction "society."
Societies vary within the following parameters. Societies ruled by dictators who may be communist or fascist,(or feudal): and societies that are democratic.The former permit few freedoms to citizens so that they can choose what they do whereas the latter permit citizens to rule their own actions to a much greater extent. The result is that the former sort of societies reflect the actions of the ruling elite but not the actions of their subjects. Moreover if the dictatorial elite acts evilly then the society will be an evil society.
The error is in trying to universalize an ethic that arose and is only workable in a small group
Maybe so. However simple prudence dictates that on a small vulnerable world in the wastes of space, we all need to be universalists.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by dscotese » October 20th, 2018, 5:08 pm

I found this thread while searching for the phrase "thieves in prison" as part of my research on mechanisms through which victims of larceny are compensated for their loss. Scott, the site admin, sounds a lot like me, but perhaps is a bit more tolerant of the way things are working in the real world than I am.

I created a document containing pretty conclusive evidence of the identity of someone who robbed me. I added the following to it yesterday in an attempt to make the document suitable for publication. I am posting it here because I seek advice on how to improve the chances that those who read it will see value in the abandonment of the strategy of creating suffering in order to limit suffering:
There is a view of human beings that is widespread but which I don’t share. The view is that they can be bad or good, and that the bad ones should be locked up or killed in order that they not cause harm to others. My view is that they, like most people, are damaged through the use of threats, and that instead of tolerating and either absorbing or transforming the suffering created by those threats like most of us do, they retaliate. These two views are compatible so far. The difference in my view is that rather than being killed or locked up, these people should be given the choice to heal from the damage by determining, with the help of their victim or victims, how to undo the damage they did in turn, and experience the healing effects of making things right.

I don’t believe this ideal has ever been as possible as it is today. The Internet, the ubiquity of cameras and digital images, and the exploding number of connections between individuals provide us with the opportunity to broadcast the lives of whatever people we select. I believe Trump is a relatively useless choice as a life to broadcast, but the man pictured above and his victims would benefit greatly if his life were much more public. I want the world to know his story, what justifications he has for taking my money and that of other victims, and whether or not he is willing to become a public figure, a poster-boy for turning one’s life around and becoming a boon for society rather than a drag on it. He put himself into the position in which we find him, having stolen a lot of money, and being known. It is a waste of his time and our money to lock him in a cage where he will wait to get out and then perhaps return to a life of crime, kill himself, or live off welfare. I’d like to avoid that waste.

I’d like to see him become my hero by working hard to unlearn the lessons that led him to a life of stealing and learn the joy of honest trading, paying back me and his other victims, and then teaching other criminals to become their victim’s heroes in the same way. This may be a pipe dream, but it seems foolish to give up on it before doing whatever I can to present this man with the opportunity for redemption. His life has value to me because he can choose that path, and if he decisively chooses against it, then his life is of no value to me.
I may seem a little naive, so if there's some way I can revise what I wrote so that I seem less naive, that would be very helpful. I guess what I'm after here are the insights, facts, and stats that can be used to support a community effort to correct a life, rather than the more common effort to make a person suffer for having made others suffer. I want using a more compassionate solution to crime to become popular because I think it will prove to be much better than what we already do in response to crime.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Brian5 » October 23rd, 2018, 9:55 pm

Prisons can be stte sponsored departments that are a home to all poor little bastards who fell between the cracks in capitalism.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Belindi » October 24th, 2018, 5:25 am

Dscotese, My interest is in the meaning of forgiveness.It's true that many criminals should be given the opportunity to be forgiven by their victim.

It's not generally recognised that forgiveness is not a feeling of pity, nor is it a religious recognition that a merciful Saviour forgives all, nor is it a metaphysical belief that there is no free will. Forgiveness cannot be bestowed unless the transgressor both asks for forgiveness (often remorsefully), and maintains positive actions that reverse their criminal actions. The latter actions may be returning stolen goods and otherwise rendering services to the victim . Such a course of action on the part of the criminal will involve them in a complete change of lifestyle whether that be theft, violence, or ignorance.
Forgiveness and restitution does not apply only to criminals of course, but to everybody.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by dscotese » November 1st, 2018, 1:29 am

Belindi wrote:
October 24th, 2018, 5:25 am
Dscotese, My interest is in the meaning of forgiveness.It's true that many criminals should be given the opportunity to be forgiven by their victim.

It's not generally recognised that forgiveness is not a feeling of pity, nor is it a religious recognition that a merciful Saviour forgives all, nor is it a metaphysical belief that there is no free will. Forgiveness cannot be bestowed unless the transgressor both asks for forgiveness (often remorsefully), and maintains positive actions that reverse their criminal actions. The latter actions may be returning stolen goods and otherwise rendering services to the victim . Such a course of action on the part of the criminal will involve them in a complete change of lifestyle whether that be theft, violence, or ignorance.
Forgiveness and restitution does not apply only to criminals of course, but to everybody.
I like the meaning you ascribe to the word. Most people won't think of it that way, and I wish there were a word that had that meaning. My research into the etymology of "forgive" suggests it's not that word. I chose "properly healing," and that, at its core, involves taking responsibility for the crime by maintaining positive actions to reverse the harm.

I disagree with a premise behind your description of forgiveness. The premise is that forgiveness is part of objective reality. I view it rather as a word we use to describe a thing we do. As it's said or written by someone, it means only and exactly what that person means, but to anyone who hears or reads it, it means whatever they interpret it to mean. There's no objective reality behind it, only the subjectivity of the one who chose it and the subjectivity of the other who interprets it. You could say that, objectively, it means the average of how people use it and how people interpret it, but your description strays from that with "not generally recognised."

In any case, thank you for describing what I'm looking for and trying to defend the use of "forgiveness" to convey it. From the etymology, it seems like it means to forget about a wrong. From the dictionary, it means the cessation of resentment or erasure of a debt. I don't like the idea of either of those because it invites insensitive people to hurt others. I like what you mean by it though! If the community around such people pressured them into making up for any harm they caused (instead of just making them suffer for it), then I think everything would be much better than it is.

My interest is in breaking the cycle of violence - at least the taxing of people to pay for it. In the worst case scenario of my ideal, a person who refuses to do anything to undo harm would eventually end up dead because those around him would learn to protect themselves, even to the point of lethal self defense. My ideal includes widespread recognition of "criminal" behavior and cooperation among non-criminals in pressuring criminals to make up to the victim for the harm they caused.

In Gandhi, the movie, a Hindu confessed to Gandhi that he had killed the child of some Muslims. Gandhi instructed him to raise a Muslim orphan and teach him Islam. Putting things back the way they were before we messed them up teaches us either to avoid screwing with them in the first place, or screw with them in a way that is easy to undo.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Belindi » November 1st, 2018, 3:52 pm

dscotese wrote:
November 1st, 2018, 1:29 am
Belindi wrote:
October 24th, 2018, 5:25 am
Dscotese, My interest is in the meaning of forgiveness.It's true that many criminals should be given the opportunity to be forgiven by their victim.

It's not generally recognised that forgiveness is not a feeling of pity, nor is it a religious recognition that a merciful Saviour forgives all, nor is it a metaphysical belief that there is no free will. Forgiveness cannot be bestowed unless the transgressor both asks for forgiveness (often remorsefully), and maintains positive actions that reverse their criminal actions. The latter actions may be returning stolen goods and otherwise rendering services to the victim . Such a course of action on the part of the criminal will involve them in a complete change of lifestyle whether that be theft, violence, or ignorance.
Forgiveness and restitution does not apply only to criminals of course, but to everybody.
I like the meaning you ascribe to the word. Most people won't think of it that way, and I wish there were a word that had that meaning. My research into the etymology of "forgive" suggests it's not that word. I chose "properly healing," and that, at its core, involves taking responsibility for the crime by maintaining positive actions to reverse the harm.

I disagree with a premise behind your description of forgiveness. The premise is that forgiveness is part of objective reality. I view it rather as a word we use to describe a thing we do. As it's said or written by someone, it means only and exactly what that person means, but to anyone who hears or reads it, it means whatever they interpret it to mean. There's no objective reality behind it, only the subjectivity of the one who chose it and the subjectivity of the other who interprets it. You could say that, objectively, it means the average of how people use it and how people interpret it, but your description strays from that with "not generally recognised."

In any case, thank you for describing what I'm looking for and trying to defend the use of "forgiveness" to convey it. From the etymology, it seems like it means to forget about a wrong. From the dictionary, it means the cessation of resentment or erasure of a debt. I don't like the idea of either of those because it invites insensitive people to hurt others. I like what you mean by it though! If the community around such people pressured them into making up for any harm they caused (instead of just making them suffer for it), then I think everything would be much better than it is.

My interest is in breaking the cycle of violence - at least the taxing of people to pay for it. In the worst case scenario of my ideal, a person who refuses to do anything to undo harm would eventually end up dead because those around him would learn to protect themselves, even to the point of lethal self defense. My ideal includes widespread recognition of "criminal" behavior and cooperation among non-criminals in pressuring criminals to make up to the victim for the harm they caused.

In Gandhi, the movie, a Hindu confessed to Gandhi that he had killed the child of some Muslims. Gandhi instructed him to raise a Muslim orphan and teach him Islam. Putting things back the way they were before we messed them up teaches us either to avoid screwing with them in the first place, or screw with them in a way that is easy to undo.
I'm interested in what forgiveness means. The Lord's Prayer is ambiguous. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" means " forgive us on condition that we forgive our debtors" and also "forgive us in the same way that we forgive out debtors".
The first meaning makes moral sense only if we actively forgive debts and this applies of course to money and other civil debts as well as moral debts . The second meaning makes no moral sense because it's usual for men to be resentful and unforgiving.

So I do take it that moral forgiveness is directly related to monetary forgiveness in which an actual money debt is forgiven. As with monetary forgiveness , moral forgiveness cannot apply to habitual offenders. It's not unduly hard to forgive a never to be repeated transgression . But it's simply silly to forgive habitual offenders whether the debt is moral or monetary.
I understand that civilised justice systems do make allowances for first offences and the punishments may become harsher as offences are repeated.
In the case of moral offenders their nearest and dearest may overlook continual offending however overlooking repeated offences is not forgiving them unless the victims have very short memories. Clearly as far as law and order is concerned repeat offences should not be overlooked. Ideally prisons' main use should be to retrain or even educate offenders so that they learn and sustain better lifestyles.

What remains then is to find the financial cost of a system where prisons retrain and educate and compare that with the present prisons which are worse than useless .It's equally clear that poverty , drug addiction and mental illness should be treated in appropriate ways which certainly does not include imprisonment.

I too view forgiveness as something we do. That is why I said it's not a feeling of pity nor soft words.

That illustration that you gave, from Gandhi, the movie, is great however that's an example of forgiving a one-off moral crime, if indeed the bereaved Muslim parent could do it. It does show that restitution is best continued as long as need be.

I don't think the idea behind moral forgiveness is metaphysical , if that is what you mean by objective reality. However I do think that the idea behind moral forgiveness is satisfaction of the victim's rights which are often restitution of goods or services. In cases where a life has been destroyed by murder of otherwise there is of course no like for like, and the transgressor will have difficulty in forgiving themself especially as they have first to feel remorse and may be unable to do so. I don't mean to say that reforming a dangerous criminal is not difficult ;it might be practically impossible.

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Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Georgeanna » November 3rd, 2018, 6:12 am

Belinda:
What remains then is to find the financial cost of a system where prisons retrain and educate and compare that with the present prisons which are worse than useless .It's equally clear that poverty , drug addiction and mental illness should be treated in appropriate ways which certainly does not include imprisonment.
I agree that there are people, particularly the young, whose current problems are not being addressed appropriately. For various reasons. Cutbacks in local community services being one of them. It's a shocking waste of potential and extremely short-sighted.

I don't know much at all about prisons or prison reform. My impression is that the current policy is to make then bigger and further away from the prisoners' own community. Also that they have been privatised, so there is hardly a motive to lower the prison population - profit being the highest priority. The proportion of prisoners to guards is high. Basically, humans are being treated worse than animals; prison being the place for gang formation and increased drug use. That's my impression. I don't know.

I haven't read all 25 pages of this thread but had a quick look at first comments. Scott appears to suggest that instead of prisons, we should treat offenders in medical or mental institutions. There's that word 'institution' with all the dominant control that it sometimes implies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institution
The penal system:
Acts upon prisoners and the guards. Prison is a separate environment from that of normal society; prisoners and guards form their own communities and create their own social norms. Guards serve as "social control agents" who discipline and provide security.[13] From the view of the prisoners, the communities can be oppressive and domineering, causing feelings of defiance and contempt towards the guards.[13] Because of the change in societies, prisoners experience loneliness, a lack of emotional relationships, a decrease in identity and "lack of security and autonomy".[14] Both the inmates and the guards feel tense, fearful, and defensive, which creates an uneasy atmosphere within the community.[13] See sociology of punishment.
Re your comment about financial cost.
Below is a link to an interesting cost/benefit analysis comparing Norway's rehabilitative system with American systems.
Conclusion that it is cheaper in the long term for people to be rehabilitated. Better for all concerned, except those that would make profit from the continual misery of others.

https://www.reasonstobecheerful.world/a ... son-reform

Georgeanna
Posts: 423
Joined: October 29th, 2017, 1:17 pm

Re: Does Society Need Prisons?

Post by Georgeanna » November 3rd, 2018, 6:20 am

From the article, it looks like the prisoners are getting off easy - and that would offend some. Indeed it could be argued that they are getting more privileges than the honest, poor who have to suffer cutbacks - but is that the case in Norway ? How does their welfare and education system compare?
One reason it might be hard to sell this idea is that it costs more money to house an inmate in a prison like Halden—more than $93,000 a year, compared to the $31,286 spent annually, on average, in the US. But the resulting low recidivism rate means that if one takes the long view it actually saves money. The failure of the US prison system means that inmates will more likely return, and the damage and cost to society will be much greater than if they had been rehabilitated.

It’s math, not bleeding heart liberalism.

Halden's director, Are Hoidel, says: “If we treat people like animals when they're in prison, they're likely to behave as animals. Here we treat them as human beings. [All] inmates in Norwegian prison are going back to the society. Do you want people who are angry—or people who are rehabilitated?”

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