Criminals Are Moralists (was Re: Responsibility)

Mon Jan 24 07:57:25 PST 2000

Yoshie's statement that she doesn't reject morality "out of hand" is ambiguius, Does she reject, but not out of hand? Or does she not reject it?

Yoshie is right taht notions of desert, etc. will not prevebt crime. She may be horrified to know that judge Richard Posner has recently published book, the Problematics of Legal and Moral Theory, in which he rejects moral theory and its application to law for this, among other reasons. To him and to Yoshie I say that moral theory is supposed to help us understand and evaluate our practices, iuncluding those of criminal justice, and not to make people better. No one was ever morally improved by reading Kant, nor, probably, morally depraved by doing that either.

Yoshie makes a characteristically slippery transition from my retribitivist insistence of making it a goal of the criminal justices system that the guilty and the innocent get what they deserve to talking about the notion of responsibility and desert in the context of economic distribution of wealth.

She knows damn well that U am not a Lockean libertarian, and she may even have read my paper attacking the Lockean view ("From Libertarianism to Egalitarianism," Social Theory and Practice 1993). She makes no pretense of actually arguing that if I want only those guilty of criminal offenses to be punished (does she disagree? would it help the workers to punish the innocent?) that I am thereby committed to capitalism red in tooth and claw, the workhouse, and the Poor Law. In fact there is no plausible argument that would support that transition.

We can talk about economic (distribitive) justice, but that is a different kettle of fish from retributive justice. I'd like to keep these seperate until someone shows I cannot.

In a message dated Mon, 24 Jan 2000 1:14:09 AM Eastern Standard Time, Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at> writes:

> Justin wrote:
> >I am puzzled on what basis Yoshie condemns rapists, racist thugs, and violent
> >cops, since she rejects morality.
> I don't reject morality out of hand. I'm simply saying that the notion of
> desert, retribution, personal responsibility, etc. do not prevent crimes;
> nor will they make criminal justice less oppressive toward the working
> class. As a matter of fact, nearly all Americans are more attached to such
> moral standards than social democratic Europeans are, and look at the
> result. . . . .
> More preaching of personal responsibility is the last thing that American
> workers need, who are already well on the way toward Mr. Locke's paradise
> of virtue and industry.
> Yoshie

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