Monday, September 19, 2005

capital punishment

i really wanted to write up a post about the death penalty, but i should be studying right now. i'll try to jot one up in the next few days.

until then, here is one of several dozen awesome quotes from albert camus' reflections on the guillotine.

could not justice concede to the criminal the same weakness in which society finds a sort of permanent extenuating circumstance for itself? can the jury decently say: “if i kill you by mistake, you will forgive me when you consider the weaknesses of our common nature. but i am condemning you to death without considering those weaknesses or that nature"? there is a solidarity of ill men in error and aberration. must that solidarity operate for the tribunal and be denied the accused? no, and if justice has any meaning in this world, it means nothing but the recognition of that solidarity; it cannot, by its very essence, divorce itself from compassion. compassion, of course, can in this instance be but awareness of a common suffering and not a frivolous indulgence paying no attention to the sufferings and rights of the victim. compassion does not exclude punishment, but it suspends the final condemnation. compassion loathes the definitive, irreparable measure that does an injustice to mankind as a whole because of failing to take into account the wretchedness of the common condition.

everyone should read the whole essay. every other line is quotable.


  1. alternatives to the death penalty use: my money, my time, my safety. Which i am not willing to give, especially the large amounts necessary to keep all death row inmates alive.

    economics is the real reason, not the bible

    i am for hard labor, but that has proven futile.

  2. you're just trying to piss me off, aren't you?

    it's always about money. that's all you care about ;)

    i'll have something for ya later

  3. I think the Chinese got it down good. If you're convicted they take you out back, shoot you then, and then bill your family for the bullet. I think we should adopt this policy. Sure we'll lose a few innocents in the begining, but soon the petty criminals will see we are serious and they won't risk the chance of getting caught. I bet we see a definate drop in "death penalty" worthy crimes within 5 years!!! :)

    ~Ryan O.

  4. I know Camus was against capital punishment in general, but how much of the argument in his essay do you think is mostly against the grisly and overly public use of the guillotine? Camus describes a man who is traumatized by having witnessed such an execution (comes home and vomits, etc.). For better or worse, very few people in the US will ever witness any execution--let alone one by decapitation.

    It's been a while since I read the essay, but I also seem to remember Camus saying that it is one thing for a religious country to execute people (promising that by this earthly punishment a criminal can adequately prepare himself for the afterlife) but that for an essentially godless country (post-Christian France) to do so is a travesty.

    Another good essay on the subject is A Hanging by George Orwell. Not much dignified about what goes on there either. . .

  5. good to hear from ya ciaran.

    the first part of camus' essay begins with his account of him seeing his father all excited to go see a public execution, only to return nauseated and dreading the experience. building off of this, camus argues that if executions were made public that society's support for capital punishment would drastically decrease. he further argues that this is the very reason why executions were taken out of the public sphere... an effort to maintain support.

    the rest of the essay takes on different approaches. in the quote i gave, camus argues that society itself is partly to blame for creating certain murderers and such. as such, society needs also to take partial responsibility for their actions.

    other discussion in the essay deal with the slave/master dichotomy which is later elaborated on in the rebel, the suffering of the unknown (the theme of the latter half of the stranger), as well as other arguments dealing with the right of human existance, punishment, and innocence.

  6. yes, compassion does preclude the final condemnation but how can anyone have compassion for a guy who kills kids or something and then cries for his life. You cannot give anyone any credit if they are given the death penalty and tied to their given crime forensically.
    eye for an eye after the dust settles is the best way to handle the cap. pun. topic.
    Take Care and get those As!
    Brian student credit card dude


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