Sunday, November 29, 2015

Chesterton on Determinism and Criminal Punishment

Determinism is not inconsistent with the cruel treatment of criminals. What it is (perhaps) inconsistent with is the generous treatment of criminals; with any appeal to their better feelings or encouragement in their moral struggle. The determinist does not believe in appealing to the will, but he does believe in changing the environment. He must not say to the sinner, “Go and sin no more,” because the sinner cannot help it. But he can put him in boiling oil; for boiling oil is an environment. 

1 comment:

John B. Moore said...

Who says the sinner cannot help it? Being a sinner isn't some deep-seated and unchangeable identity that people have, but it's simply a matter of your relation to your environment.

Saying "Go and sin no more" is just as much an environment as a vat of boiling oil. We could debate how effective different environmental changes will be in producing particular outcomes ...