Death Penalty: Report From Canada

James Farmelant farmelantj at
Fri Mar 5 13:36:56 PST 1999

On Fri, 5 Mar 1999 14:42:01 -0500 sawicky at (Max Sawicky) writes:
>> Arguments for the death penalty take a form of retributive
>justice that _assumes_ free will and that human behavior is not
>causally determined. >
>Just so. People are held responsible for their own actions.
>They are not dumb brutes manipulated by their environment. Which
>is the more humanistic view?

I would go along with B.F. Skinner, who held that what distinguishes the human species is not the possession of an "autonomous self" endowed with Free Will but rather, is the development of a culture, a social environment that contains the contingencies that generate the behaviors that we call self-knowledge and self-control. What Max labels the humanistic view, neglects the role of the social environment in favor of a concern with the inner determination of conduct. This neglect of the role of the environment has in turn impeded the development of better practices for building self-knowledge and self-management. This situation helps to foster the very sorts of behaviors (such as violence) that humanists presumably wish to suppress. One of the most interesting points that Skinner had made in his BEYOND FREEDOM & DIGNITY was how what he called the "literature of freedom and dignity" (or what Max would call the humanistic view) in the name of freedom of choice helped to foster our society's reliance upon repressive means for dealing with "undesirable" forms of conduct.

If by humanism we mean a concern with the future of mankind and the realization of human potential then if the foregoing assertions are valid, then Sam's view rather than Max's is arguably the more humanistic view.

Jim Farmelant

>> What gives the capitalist state the right to take someone's
>>From where do rights originate, if not collective decisions?
>>From God?
>> The human race is the only species that has bloodlust.>
>You assume bloodlust rather than other motives. I'm no zoologist
>but watching one of the nature shows w/my daughter (there's some
>violence on TV for you), there was an episode where adult lions
>routinely kill baby cheetahs without eating them, and for no
>apparent reason. So I suspect you are inaccurate on this one.

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