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There is a paradox in our distaste for "an eye for an eye."
June 13, 2013 9:22 AM   Subscribe

The Case For Revenge

Just Deserts: An Interview with Danielle S. Allen
I can tell you the origin story of the book, which is simply that, as an undergraduate, I took a class on Athenian politics in which we read a lot of the speeches that were given in Athenian law courts. I was really taken aback by the fact that there was very little mention of imprisonment in those speeches, and I suddenly realized that I couldn’t imagine a world where prisons weren’t a major part of how we think about punishment. That captivated me, and I wanted to understand a world where imprisonment was not the dominant mode of understanding punishment. In that regard, the origin of the book was absolutely the shock of discovering, by looking at the ancient world, that our world is contingent, and that one particular contingency is the degree to which we use incarceration. It bears some thinking as to how we got there and what a world without extensive incarceration looks like.
posted by the man of twists and turns (53 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
But the distinction between justice and vengeance is false. A call for justice is always a cry for revenge. By placing their faith in the law, those who justifiably wish to see wrongdoers punished are not disavowing vengeance. If anything, they are seeking to be avenged by the law. No matter what they say, victims aren't choosing justice over vengeance;

Where to start with this bullshit?
posted by Cosine at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


It bears some thinking as to how we got there and what a world without extensive incarceration looks like.

Wide-scale "extensive" incarceration is a very modern phenomenon in the West. One need hardly go back as far as the Ancient Greeks to imagine a world where incarceration is a relatively rare response to most ordinary criminal acts.
posted by yoink at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Greeks didn't not have incarceration because they were so freedom-loving. They didn't have incarceration because in a small town it's easy to shove your problem under a rug by sending a criminal out of town, where he becomes someone else's problem. With no overarching State governing the hinterlands, who cares who is out there?

If anything, they punished criminals by incarcerating *themselves* in the towns, as the lands outside the city gates get more and more peopled with criminals.

It's like sending your criminals to Australia, but where "Australia" is a couple miles from home.
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter: "An Eye for an Eye: Justice or Injustice, Poetic or Barbaric?"
"At an age at which I should be putting on a wedding dress, I am asking for someone's eyes to be dripped with acid,"
posted by andoatnp at 9:40 AM on June 13, 2013


So much of the case for vengeance in the first article seems to be little more than an appeal to emotions or tradition rather than a real argument. What victims want is just that: a want. Empathy for victims does not and probably should not rest entirely on carrying out their wants, not least because victims often have difficulty, genuine difficulty, assessing the situation in which they have been victimized.

The rest is a bizarrely argument in which justice and injustice are simultaneously ideal qualities and measurable quantities, essentially a textbook example of the error of reification. And byt he time you reach this quote:
And other nations, including Cambodia and Iran, better incorporate vengeance within their legal systems. (Iran's and Cambodia's human-rights records are a different matter entirely.) There is a more honest and humane recognition of the personal investment that victims have in seeing justice done
you realize that the author is unwittingly undermining her/his own argument that vengeance-as-justice produces a healthy social order. When all your examples in actual practice are from societes that are neither democratic nor humane, it takes a special kind of foolishness to maintain that purely retributive justice satisfies either, let alone both.

The second article is better as a history of different types of justice in a mildly epistemic mode, but it's ironic that the second article rejects "societies based on economic incentive" when the case for vengeance is almost always framed in entirely economistic terms.
posted by kewb at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


But the distinction between justice and vengeance is false. A call for justice is always a cry for revenge. By placing their faith in the law, those who justifiably wish to see wrongdoers punished are not disavowing vengeance. If anything, they are seeking to be avenged by the law.

This paragraph struck me, too, because it's a perfect example of begging the question in the precise sense:

Justice is merely vengeance by another name. Therefore those who call for justice are really calling for vengeance. Therefore calls for justice and not vengeance are based on an illusory distinction, because justice is merely vengeance by another name.

It is certainly possible that some, or indeed most, people who want vengeance call for it by the name of justice. That doesn't mean that these concepts should be conflated.
posted by gauche at 9:45 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


"At an age at which I should be putting on a wedding dress, I am asking for someone's eyes to be dripped with acid,"

An update to that:
Isna quoted Ms Bahrami as saying: "I struggled for seven years with this verdict to prove to people that the person who hurls acid should be punished through 'qisas', but today I pardoned him because it was my right.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I come up with revenge scenarios approximately every five minutes on my commute to work. But this is not a way to actually run a society, nor does it make for good public safety policy.

Neither does jailing or imprisoning everyone for every goddamn thing.
posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Insisting that justice will suffice when revenge is what victims really want is both intellectually dishonest and factually untrue. Besides, in modern societies where vigilantism is disallowed, we all on some level reasonably believe that it is only by leveraging the law—and having the legal system serve as our proxy—that vengeance can be actually achieved.

Dennis Shepard's courtroom speech
posted by dubusadus at 9:59 AM on June 13, 2013


There might be an argument to be made along this line, but this one is pretty weak. For example:
So we tolerate a legal system where over 95 percent of all cases are resolved with a negotiated plea—bargained down from what the wrongdoer rightfully deserved. That means that convicted criminals are rarely asked to truly repay their debt to society.
To anyone with even a passing understanding of the legal system, this is positively silly (and as the author is the law professor, I have to say, probably dishonest). Most crimes allow for a very wide range of sentencing--for example, in my home state, grand larceny (theft of more than $200) carries a potential sentence of twenty years in prison. So if someone were to steal say $300, and the prosecutor allowed the defendant to be sentenced to restitution (the classic "revenge"), community service, and probation, by the author's logic, the defendant hasn't "truly" repaid his debt. This makes no sense by the lex talionis principle to which the author himself subscribes earlier in the article.

Secondarily, there is the implicit assumption throughout the article that victims are good at objectively assessing how much harm they have suffered (thus justifying their desire for that much "revenge"). But there's no good reason to believe that this is the case--humans have tremendous self-serving biases, as anyone who is familiar with history can surely see.
posted by dsfan at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


What I find interestingly missing from this theory are post-revenge experience of those who have successfully carried out a mission of vengeance.

I seem to remember seeing a study from a psychology class where seeking and obtaining revenge actually caused additional unhappiness.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:05 AM on June 13, 2013


So we tolerate a legal system where over 95 percent of all cases are resolved with a negotiated plea—bargained down from what the wrongdoer rightfully deserved. That means that convicted criminals are rarely asked to truly repay their debt to society. Even worse, this math-phobic system tragically discounts the debt owed to the victim, who is grossly shortchanged.

This whole paragraph is dreadful. How many questions can be begged in three short sentences?
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on June 13, 2013


Where to start with this bullshit?

We can start by distinguishing revenge from retribution. One can argue that justice (as meted out by the state) should be primarily concerned with retribution; but justice does not look kindly on revenge. That's why we don't let the murder victim's father sit on the jury.
posted by Knappster at 10:13 AM on June 13, 2013


dsfan, it's actually quite disingenuous. Criminal proceedings are brought on behalf not of the victim but of the state. The victim is not a party to criminal proceedings. It should not surprise us one whit that such proceedings are not held for the benefit of a non-party, because that is true of all legal proceedings. It probably makes the most sense to think of the victim as the star witness, but we also don't hold trials for the benefit of witnesses.

The victim may have remedies at civil law, and can hire their own lawyer to bring those claims. I understand why this may be disappointing and unfair, but this is the system that we have.

Also, it's not clear to me why giving satisfaction to the victim should be considered identical to paying one's debt to society. I can easily imagine many situations in which those two things might be very different indeed.
posted by gauche at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This made the rounds a while back, and at the time it was the most loathsome article I'd ever seen make the cut for The Feature inside Instapaper. Repulsive, regressive bullshit. Yes, there's an implicit element of vengeance in any judicial punishment, but it's an unavoidable side effect of having punishments either as deterrents or as a way of keeping criminals apart from society while an attempt at rehabilitation* is made, not the ultimate glorified goal of the whole thing. Law professors out here (and probably most out there) would be aghast at this article.

*Good luck with that in the US prison system, though...
posted by jklaiho at 10:19 AM on June 13, 2013


Somebody's been watching too much Game of Thrones...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2013


Punishment is not simply a synonym for revenge. There can also be a sincere desire for deterrence. Interestingly though, that desire can also exist in the context of revenge. When I kicked the shit out of a bully I definitely wanted revenge (you hurt me so I am going to hurt you, as a sort of karmic payback), but I also wanted to "teach him a lesson", i.e. dissuade him from behaving that way in future.
posted by Decani at 10:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not aware of ever having read anything at chronicle.com before. I'm finding it difficult to put much stock in a source whose name is "The Chronicle of Higher Education" yet doesn't seem to be able to make the distinction between "lessen" and "lesson" or "deserts" and "desserts".

I'll be the first to admit that my writing is far from perfect, and Murphy's Law says I've got at least one mistake in this comment, but dammit, I don't do this for a living.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2013


"We can start by distinguishing revenge from retribution. One can argue that justice (as meted out by the state) should be primarily concerned with retribution; but justice does not look kindly on revenge. That's why we don't let the murder victim's father sit on the jury."

And rehabilitation, the only logical goal in a world where it costs more to send someone to prison for a year than Harvard and where black folks seem to be the only ones going blind in all of our eye for an eye business, remains forgotten.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:43 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


His logic is so circular it is making me dizzy.
posted by caddis at 10:43 AM on June 13, 2013


They used to have a vengeance-based justice system in France (and in most of Europe, really). That is, they didn't really have one, since only one person was in charge of keeping order in a village and he couldn't call for backup. So people would just escalate their conflicts and eventually kill each other (at which point the culprit would usually flee to avoid the consequences).

You might say that this system now exists in many parts of the US, in spots where violence has taken such a hold that homicides become very hard to prosecute, as witnesses won't come forward.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:45 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a really interesting article, thanks for posting it.
There is a more honest and humane recognition of the personal investment that victims have in seeing justice done. Indeed, in some cases they become full participants. Instead of being shunted aside and marginalized, their need for vengeance is seen as natural and healthy rather than pathological and sickening.
It's particularly interesting to individuals who are trying to figure out ways a stateless society could still police itself.
posted by corb at 11:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blood feuds are an excellent example of what can happen when people feel they *must* police themselves. See every gang shooting in my (and other) city, for example.

Feeling revenge may be natural/normal and even kind of healthy for an individual, but enacting it as a form of policy across a society may not be the greatest idea.
posted by rtha at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2013


What I find interestingly missing from this theory are post-revenge experience of those who have successfully carried out a mission of vengeance.

I seem to remember seeing a study from a psychology class where seeking and obtaining revenge actually caused additional unhappiness.


That reminds me of this article about revenge in New Guinea (paywalled version):
[Daniel paralyzed Isum during a battle to avenge a killing] Daniel concluded his story in the same happy, satisfied, straightforward tone in which he had recounted the rest of it. “Now, when I visit an Ombal village to play basketball, and Isum comes to watch the game in his wheelchair, I feel sorry for him,” he said. “Occasionally, I go over to Isum, shake his hand, and tell him, ‘I feel sorry for you.’ But people see Isum. They know that he will be suffering all the rest of his life for having killed Soll. People remember that Isum used to be a tall and handsome man, destined to be a future leader. But so was my uncle Soll. By getting Isum paralyzed, I gained appropriate revenge for the killing of my tall and handsome uncle, who had been very good to me, and who would have become a leader.”
The new New Guineans in that article dislike the fear and the cycle of violence that revenge causes, but they don't present themselves as being harmed from the act of achieving vengeful satisfaction, from what I recall.

Disclaimer: I haven't read either of the articles in the OP yet.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2013


yoink: It bears some thinking as to how we got there and what a world without extensive incarceration looks like.

Wide-scale "extensive" incarceration is a very modern phenomenon in the West. One need hardly go back as far as the Ancient Greeks to imagine a world where incarceration is a relatively rare response to most ordinary criminal acts.
Actually, the Greeks didn't have incarceration because it's a huge drain on the state revenues. You can offset the expenses with prisoner labor, but that requires constant supervision - and is dangerous in the prisoner's home city, where all of his kin and friends live.

In a day where locks were extremely expensive, incarcerating prisoners just doesn't make sense. Banishment does, assuming (as was usually the case) anyone caught breaking the banishment would be executed. Once away from their support network of friends & family, few people could be expected to thrive, and all but the most petty of crimes would thus be hampered.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Weird, until I saw caddis's comment using the male pronoun for the author of "The Case for Revenge" I had somehow imagined the article was written by a woman. I don't know why, or how this perception impacted my reaction to the article, but I certainly had it.
posted by jepler at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2013


I find Rosenbaum to be peddling an underlying motive of penal maximalism...for example, in his attacks on the plea bargaining system. Hasn't our society suffered enough with three strikes, mandatory minimums, having more prisoners than Stalin's gulag?
Are we not vengeful enough, with our lenient eye to prison rape, our isolation wards, our 'loafs', our denial of medications and medical treatment, our discrimination against the con, the permanent stigmatization of the convict?
Will you not be satisfied, Mr. Rosenbaum, until the racks stretch and the crows dance between the gibbets? How are we not cruel enough already?
And what of the golden rule? And what of the categorical imperative? Never mind, such things must be dismissed. Only the fulfillment of every psychological fancy of the public is worthy of policy.

It's articles like this that re-affirm my belief that we are living in the depths of the Kali Yuga.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 11:23 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


You'll find a much better argument for vengeance in Getting Even: Forgiveness and Its Limits by Jeffrie Murphy.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:25 AM on June 13, 2013


America is no less civilized or law-abiding because bin Laden was assassinated.

Opinions differ on that.

If revenge is so shameful, then why don't audiences charge out of theaters in protest?


Good point. We should use movie audience reactions more often to determine our moral positions about things like war, rape, murder, and revenge.
posted by monospace at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"An eye for an eye" in the way it's discussed here, as paying back the damage you have done, would make more sense to me if you took my eye and in return, I got your eye. But I can't have your eye. I lost my eye either way. The only thing I can have is you losing your eye. It's like I loaned you money and, instead of you paying me back, you burn a pile of money. Sure, I'm spared the idea that you're getting away with something, and maybe I feel better for not watching you live off the money I should be getting, but I get nothing of what I've lost. We do justice in that situation not by striving to repair what's broken, but by breaking something else to achieve "fairness." It's bizarre to me. You break my stuff, I want you to fix it. I don't want to break your stuff. I don't want to do the thing I'm upset at you for doing. And if you can't fix it, that doesn't mean breaking your stuff is a good substitute.

If you and I have two eyes each and you take out my eye, our choices are a world where (1) you have two and I have one, or a world where (2) you have one and I have one. I gain absolutely nothing in the second one except parity with you; I am "paid back" only in that you are deprived until we are equal. What if you lose your eye some other way? Are we then equal, or is it important that you lose your eye for this, for taking my eye?

And how do we administer this? What if you kill my friend; do I kill your friend? If you rape a woman, does she rape you? I honestly don't understand where this ends as a complete philosophy of justice. When you are harmed, I am no better off than before except in the most limited of ways, and I actually think it does many victims a terrible disservice to suggest that we've given them justice if we make someone else suffer. Some of them feel that's helpful to them and they feel better, but many do not. Many feel worse. Many feel that nothing has been gained, and that they live in a darker and more hopeless world. Furthermore, if I can lose my eye and take an eye and that's just, then anyone willing to sacrifice an eye can take an eye and be living justly.

Justice is not just another name for revenge. It's another name for engaging the very, very hard question of how to respond when people wrong each other -- there are elements of punishment, deterrence, restitution, and lots of other things. But the idea that we should reduce the idea of justice to merely taking from perpetrators until they are as poorly situated as their victims seems terribly short-sighted and desperately incomplete. I'm not opposed to punishment, but I'm baffled by the notion that all victims want is to inflict back -- they may well want that, but they may not, and they may want something more.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


I've often found that revenge is a bit like carrying out an illicit sexual fantasy of some kind -- often the planning and expectation is more satisfying than the execution and the aftermath.

It's also usually overrated as well. You'd honestly be better off getting on with your life than getting caught up in trying to balance the scales.
posted by Avenger at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


which is all very well and good, until one peeks at your user name; I believe the term we use here is eponysterical
posted by caddis at 12:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oedipus started out as a case of road rage. Wound up taking out both his own eyes.

A lot of people like the "when seeking revenge, dig two graves" quote, but don't get that, no, really...
posted by Smedleyman at 12:43 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, the desire for revenge is natural - but then, so is liking good-looking people whether they deserve it or not and fearing or disliking people who are 'different'. Natural isn't synonymous with 'good'.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 12:57 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Somebody's been watching too much Game of Thrones...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. What defines the bleakness of Westeros is the inability of people to let things go. The cycle of escalating vengeance and how everyone is worse off because of it, and the fact that there's no possible scenario that breaks the cycle without invoking a Jesus or Gandhi figure. Or if someone has dragons and magic and just squashes everyone else.

But yeah, vengeance fucks everything up for everyone long term. Intelligent, civilized people temper their vengeance and call it "justice" and are mindful that a world where victims of crime get to watch their victimizers get body parts chopped off is no kind of world we want to live in. This isn't compassion for criminals. This is enlightened self interest.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's also usually overrated as well. You'd honestly be better off getting on with your life than getting caught up in trying to balance the scales.

Absolutely true in my opinion-- and also precisely the reason revenge and the desire for revenge have such great social utility.

If rape victims were completely rational, for example, and strictly concerned with what was best for them personally, why would they report the crime or so much as tell anyone else about it? Coming forward as a rape victim usually smashes a person's life to pieces, and it can take a year or more to put things back together again.

But if every rape victim chose to simply get on with his or her life, rapists would enjoy much greater impunity than even they do now, and we'd see huge increases in incidence.

A desire for revenge is not the only reason victims of rape come forward (a select few apparently act mainly out of an altruistic desire to see other potential victims spared what happened to them) but it is a very important reason.

And an indispensable reason.
posted by jamjam at 1:31 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If rape victims were completely rational, for example, and strictly concerned with what was best for them personally, why would they report the crime or so much as tell anyone else about it?

Because by doing so they might aid in the construction and maintenance of a social norm which protects them. If you report your attacker and they are prevented from attacking you again through some or another method, you are safer than you were before. By extension, if you can convince everyone else to report their attackers and achieve similar results, you as an individual are less likely to be attacked in general because there are fewer proven attackers able to attack *anyone*.
posted by kewb at 1:44 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, the argument that the desire for vengeance impels victims to report their victimizers only covers why the desire for revenge might help a functioning legal system; you have made no practical case that the legal system should indulge that desire.

Nor does the argument show that it's an overall good thing for the rape victim to seethe in a vengeful rage rather than, after making a report, seeking the sort of help and counseling that is much more likely to allow him or her to recover from the pain and trauma of being a rape victim.
posted by kewb at 1:51 PM on June 13, 2013


The author says:
By placing their faith in the law, those who justifiably wish to see wrongdoers punished are not disavowing vengeance. If anything, they are seeking to be avenged by the law.
His whole theory rests on the premise of the legal system acting as a proxy, getting retribution for me, the victim, because I cannot be trusted to do it dispassionately, humanely, with appropriate balance and so on. The idea is that the legal system takes over for me in the role of executioner, if you like.

But this is flatly false. In criminal law, the plaintiff isn't me, it's the People or the State—this is a profound achievement that should never be forgotten because it means that the State substitutes for me not as executioner, but as the injured party, and pursues justice for itself, not on behalf of me. This is a profound act of compassion and solidarity with the victims. They aren't left alone in their victimhood—all of society and the entire state bureaucracy comes to them and says "Your injury is our injury." Symbolically, the People take their place as the true, ultimate victim. Because of this substitution, the victims are able to feel that vengeance is beneath them.

Another quote:
Victims have no role in trials until sentencing, if at all, and they largely serve the symbolic purpose of being witnesses to the crime rather than parties to the underlying action.
Rosenbaum is apparently blind to how liberating this can be. If a crime against one of us is a crime against all of us, then of course your main contribution to the case is as a witness. But this all fails when the symbolic substitution of the People as the victim no longer functions because we feel that there is no such thing as Society, as Margaret Thatcher wanted us to believe, leaving us in a barbaric state of victimhood and vengeance. Rosenbaum alludes to this:
Courtrooms sanitized of these feelings [of vengeance] offer no moral closure. And the public loses faith in the law—with all its false outcomes and broken promises.
The causation is the other way around. When the public loses faith in the law, and the ability of the state to stand up and stand in for the victim, the full weight of victimhood and the attendant need for vengeance falls on us.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:11 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


"An Eye for an Eye: Justice or Injustice, Poetic or Barbaric?"

I wish that people would be smarter about "an eye for an eye". It is often derided as a backwards and "barbaric" standard. To the contrary, it is a rather advanced standard that very few people manage to follow with any consistency.

The "eye for an eye" standard, as practiced, was one of compensation. In other words, that the compensation should be commensurate with the offense. There is a passage in the Talmud that makes this abundantly clear in the example of one man hitting another so that he loses some of the sight in one eye. Obviously, there is no way to have the State Clobberer hit the other man to injure his eye in the same way. It is a matter of monetary compensation much like the current civil tort system of compensatory damages. If you are assaulted and injured, the remedy is not that you injure the defendant to the same degree but that he is forced to pay you some sum of money that is thought to match the injury, to the degree such a thing is possible.

Don't think this is an advanced standard? Walk up to a burly customer in your favorite roadhouse and insult his mother. See if he is content to merely insult yours in return. Punch someone in the face once and see if you just get hit once in return. I only need to open the newspapers with its stories of honor killings and other such matters to see that almost no one has managed to learn the "barbaric" standard of letting the compensation match the offense. The author recognizes that it is a check on excess but it confused by the application - there was no "forfeiting" of the offender's eye under the Old Covenant.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:50 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


IAmBroom: " Actually, the Greeks didn't have incarceration because it's a huge drain on the state revenues. You can offset the expenses with prisoner labor, but that requires constant supervision - and is dangerous in the prisoner's home city, where all of his kin and friends live."

It seems like the solution would be to simply sell the convict into slavery, and let his new owner figure out the economics.
posted by pwnguin at 3:57 PM on June 13, 2013


kewb: If you report your attacker and they are prevented from attacking you again through some or another method, you are safer than you were before. By extension, if you can convince everyone else to report their attackers and achieve similar results, you as an individual are less likely to be attacked in general because there are fewer proven attackers able to attack *anyone*.

This makes me think of the herd immunity you get when a critical mass of a population gets vaccinated.

So perhaps less vengeance, and more immune system response?

[edited to fix link to comment]
posted by chromecow at 5:19 PM on June 13, 2013


"It is often derided as a backwards and "barbaric" standard.

Yeah, by some asshole named Jesus.
posted by klangklangston at 5:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyway, this is an interesting article, in part because it reminds me of nothing so much as a poli sci prof who used to give us exams like this, with an essay more worthwhile to critique than to read.
posted by klangklangston at 5:47 PM on June 13, 2013


I'm reminded of a story I recently read of a marathon runner catching a bike thief. She wrote: "I can’t say, though, what this will mean for the man who felt theft was his best option today. I do hope justice is restorative." Seems pretty clear that this is one near-victim who is making a pretty clear distinction between revenge and justice.

Here's a blog post with her comments and here's the TV news video.
posted by funkiwan at 6:20 PM on June 13, 2013


"The "eye for an eye" standard, as practiced, was one of compensation. In other words, that the compensation should be commensurate with the offense."

I think that the idea of compensation is better without the Bronze Age metaphor — and for Hammurabi, the "eye for an eye" was a lot more literal. But even then, you're right, the author treats that as "revenge" rather than being made whole because his whole thesis is based on confusing the two.

I will say that for a lot of being made whole, there is a fundamentally absurd utilitarian calculation underneath a lot of criminal sentencing.
posted by klangklangston at 7:32 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And God, I didn't even make it to the parts about the history of prisons.
posted by klangklangston at 7:32 PM on June 13, 2013


Related post: Living with the Enemy.
posted by homunculus at 7:42 PM on June 13, 2013


A whole essay on revenge vs justice and not one mention of the most famous and thorough treatment of them all?
posted by mono blanco at 10:15 PM on June 13, 2013


A surefire way to establish one's moral superiority . . . is to renounce any interest in revenge

How about renouncing a need to establish one's moral superiority?
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:39 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, by some *** named Jesus.

He did not say it was backward or barbaric.

"Turn the other cheek" is just as commonly misunderstood as "eye for an eye". If someone strikes you, the other cheek is offered to him. Care to guess what happens if he strikes that cheek?

He wasn't a wimp despite the depiction in modern "Jesus is my boyfriend" music.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:13 AM on June 14, 2013


pwnguin: IAmBroom: " Actually, the Greeks didn't have incarceration because it's a huge drain on the state revenues. You can offset the expenses with prisoner labor, but that requires constant supervision - and is dangerous in the prisoner's home city, where all of his kin and friends live."

It seems like the solution would be to simply sell the convict into slavery, and let his new owner figure out the economics.
That was done, too. Slightly different mechanics; same result to the State.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:39 PM on June 14, 2013


Tanizaki: "Turn the other cheek" is just as commonly misunderstood as "eye for an eye". If someone strikes you, the other cheek is offered to him. Care to guess what happens if he strikes that cheek?

He wasn't a wimp despite the depiction in modern "Jesus is my boyfriend" music.

Luke 6:29-30 - To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Matthew 5:39-40 - But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.


So, what happens, Tanizaki? Don't leave us hanging like that! The Gospels don't tell us, but apparently Y*hweh Himself has told you the secret third thing... and somehow it reverses all this silly "love and peace and kindness" stuff that was actually written down in the Bible.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:48 PM on June 14, 2013


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