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C.S. Lewis on punishment

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  • Steve Hayes
    An old message from the C.S. Lewis newsgroup, but perhaps still interesting. ... I checked _A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S. Lewis_ out of the library
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 20 4:07 AM
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      An old message from the C.S. Lewis newsgroup, but perhaps still interesting.

      Ben Brothers wrote:
      >
      > kuritzky@... (Eric Kuritzky) writes:
      >
      > >"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may
      > >be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons
      > >than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may
      > >sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those
      > >who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they
      > >do so with the approval of their consciences."
      > > -- C. S. Lewis

      > A quick Google search reveals the _Humanitarian Theory of
      > Punishment_, which I believe is part of _God in the Dock_.

      I checked _A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S. Lewis_ out of the library
      yesterday, and the quote above is indeed said to be from 'The
      Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,' though the note is that it's from
      the June 1953 _Res Judicatae_. I should also note that the quote as it
      appears in _A Mind Awake_ has an additional word; it begins, "Of all
      tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised..."

      A couple other quotes:

      "Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of all created beings
      the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate presence of
      God."
      --_Reflections on the Psalms_, ch. 3

      "A theory of punishment which is purely exemplary or purely reformatory,
      or both, is shockingly immoral. Only the concept of desert connects
      punishment with morality at all. If deterrence is all that matters, the
      execution of an innocent man, provided the public think him guilty,
      would be fully justified. If reformation alone is in question, then
      there is nothing against painful and compulsory reform for all our
      defects, and a Government which believes Christianity to be a neurosis
      will have a perfectly good right to hand us all over to their
      straighteners for 'cure' tomorrow."
      --Letter in _Church Times_ (1 December 1961)


      --
      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/litmain.htm
      http://methodius.blogspot.com
    • Steve Hayes
      ... I once had to write an essay on the ethics of punishment, based on a book by Moberley on the same name. My conclusion was that punishment was a sort of
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 20 4:38 AM
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        On 20 Sep 2008 at 13:07, Steve Hayes wrote:

        > An old message from the C.S. Lewis newsgroup, but perhaps still interesting.
        >
        > Ben Brothers wrote:

        > "A theory of punishment which is purely exemplary or purely reformatory,
        > or both, is shockingly immoral. Only the concept of desert connects
        > punishment with morality at all. If deterrence is all that matters, the
        > execution of an innocent man, provided the public think him guilty,
        > would be fully justified. If reformation alone is in question, then
        > there is nothing against painful and compulsory reform for all our
        > defects, and a Government which believes Christianity to be a neurosis
        > will have a perfectly good right to hand us all over to their
        > straighteners for 'cure' tomorrow."
        > --Letter in _Church Times_ (1 December 1961)

        I once had to write an essay on the ethics of punishment, based on a book by
        Moberley on the same name.

        My conclusion was that punishment was a sort of inverted sacrament - an
        outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual disgrace.


        --
        Steve Hayes
        E-mail: shayes@...
        Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/litmain.htm
        http://methodius.blogspot.com
      • Hummingwolf
        Here s another one, with a variant of the first quote in your mail: I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 20 6:59 AM
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          Here's another one, with a variant of the first quote in your mail:

          "I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to the rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations. And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic, held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the
          inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme--whose highest real claim is to reasonable prudence--the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication."

          --C.S. Lewis, from the essay "A Reply to Professor Haldane," as printed in _On Stories And Other Essays on Literature_


          --- On Sat, 9/20/08, Steve Hayes <hayesstw@...> wrote:

          > From: Steve Hayes <hayesstw@...>
          > Subject: [eldil] C.S. Lewis on punishment
          > To: eldil@yahoogroups.com
          > Date: Saturday, September 20, 2008, 7:07 AM
          > An old message from the C.S. Lewis newsgroup, but perhaps
          > still interesting.
          >
          > Ben Brothers wrote:
          > >
          > > kuritzky@... (Eric Kuritzky) writes:
          > >
          > > >"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for
          > the good of its victims may
          > > >be the most oppressive. It may be better to live
          > under robber barons
          > > >than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber
          > baron's cruelty may
          > > >sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be
          > satiated; but those
          > > >who torment us for our own good will torment us
          > without end, for they
          > > >do so with the approval of their
          > consciences."
          > > > -- C. S. Lewis
          >
          > > A quick Google search reveals the _Humanitarian Theory
          > of
          > > Punishment_, which I believe is part of _God in the
          > Dock_.
          >
          > I checked _A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S. Lewis_ out
          > of the library
          > yesterday, and the quote above is indeed said to be from
          > 'The
          > Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,' though the note is
          > that it's from
          > the June 1953 _Res Judicatae_. I should also note that the
          > quote as it
          > appears in _A Mind Awake_ has an additional word; it
          > begins, "Of all
          > tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised..."
          >
          > A couple other quotes:
          >
          > "Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of
          > all created beings
          > the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate
          > presence of
          > God."
          > --_Reflections on the Psalms_, ch. 3
          >
          > "A theory of punishment which is purely exemplary or
          > purely reformatory,
          > or both, is shockingly immoral. Only the concept of desert
          > connects
          > punishment with morality at all. If deterrence is all that
          > matters, the
          > execution of an innocent man, provided the public think him
          > guilty,
          > would be fully justified. If reformation alone is in
          > question, then
          > there is nothing against painful and compulsory reform for
          > all our
          > defects, and a Government which believes Christianity to be
          > a neurosis
          > will have a perfectly good right to hand us all over to
          > their
          > straighteners for 'cure' tomorrow."
          > --Letter in _Church Times_ (1 December 1961)
          >
          >
          > --
          > Steve Hayes
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