Pope Gregory I identified what he called the Seven Deadly Sins, or capital vices. In my discussion of Morality, I substitute the word trait for Pope Gregory’s use of the word sin and speak in terms of the 7 deadly traits. The Seven Deadly Traits can do a lot of damage to the targets we aim to meet in life. The Seven Deadly Traits are major hindrances to satisfy our basal Self and Belonging-Needs, satisfying our deeper needs, fulfilling our higher needs, and just plain managing life. They can dramatically knock us out of balance. Through the defense mechanism of psychological projection we tend to point out these damaging character traits in others, but mostly downplay them in ourselves. However, if we do not convincingly manage these traits in ourselves and redirect them, it will be difficult to connect with other people. I view this section on traits as overlapping with any discussion I have on human nature and behaviors. The following chart of human nature personality traits and behavioral characteristics are seriously capable of being impediments that keep us from meeting our targets and satisfying our innate needs in life.
Hamartia is a New Testament word that sometimes can stand for sin, and sin is a concept related to evil. First of all, let me review the word sin. By using the consequential word hamartia, is it possible to avoid the more fallacious word sin? Hamartia is about missing the mark. Hamartia is like in archery where the archer’s arrow doesn’t hit its mark —-> he/she is off target. In Hebrew sin is referred to as chattath —> the root chatt is about making a mistake. Thus, I view hamartia as being off target in our life. I view hamartia as a consequential concept; i. e. once we pay the consequences for being off target, we can get back on track and on the right path. Hamartia allows us to ask the questions, “What will it take for my life to get back on track?,” “What will it take to meet my needs?,” and “What will it take to bring balance to my life?” I like hamartia because it fits into my Theory of Balanceology growth model that encourages self-evolution. That is, self-growth happens as we get closer to the inner circle, the inner mark that we are targeting. The mark (target) is operationally getting closer and closer to the bulls eye (B) by ever finer gradations of satisfying our needs. I have the bulls eye B stand for balance (see attachment). Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I like the quote because I interpret it as being related to perseverance and not giving up. It is a quote about try, try, and try again. I view it as a quote about devolution and life knocking us down, getting back up, brushing ourselves off, and taking aim at the bulls eye again —> satisfying our needs that lead to meaning and balance. I have made my fair share of missteps in life where I have been off target. I have discovered that when I miss a target in life, a goal in life that I have been aiming for, I now understand the importance of trying to get back on track and to try again.
I have considered the question, “Should punishment have a forgiveness component to it?” Many have compassionately written about the need to forgive those who have hurt us. They argue that to withhold forgiveness to the offender, only keeps the offended person from healing. Are there some crimes (rape, murder, or bodily destruction) that should not be forgiven? Are some shocking evils indefensible, unpardonable, and unforgiveable? Are there excruciating cruelties that one can’t get beyond and forgive? I know it is controversial, but I propose that we have a right not to forgive or to forget certain vicious deeds. I argue we have a right to continue to be angry with those dishonorable doers of evil. In such cases, if one chooses not to forgive or forget, the goal should be to not become so obsessed with anger that the victim can’t move forward in life. Is that possible? Are some evil deeds so painful that they can’t be, shouldn’t be forgiven? It is of great ironic interest and dismaying hypocrisy to me when I hear certain Christian sanctimonious do-gooders talk about the importance of forgiveness. Interesting and hypocritical to the extent that these are the same incredulous individuals who sardonically worship an unforgiving revengeful God, and paradoxically advocate for an agonizing deontological punishment of Hell and the nightmare of eternal damnation. Alas, such are the absurdities and the ironies of the human condition! What do you think?
Consequential punishment judges actions by consequences and is more relativistic. Deontological punishment judges actions in absolute terms and is more deterministic. A deontological stance says, “absolute evil calls for absolute punishment.” (Guinness, 2005) In advocating for a certain view of punishment is helpful to consider if the punishment model applies equally to stealing, robbery, DUI’s, child abuse, rape, or murder? I ask, “Are there any circumstances where capital punishment is appropriate?” At this stage in my life, I don’t have an answer to this death penalty question. What punishment perspective do I lean towards supporting? Actually, for me it isn’t so much about the view of punishment as it is about the person. I identify individuals who say yes to change as fitting into a Consequential Punishment Model. Painfully there are those die-hard individuals who will never change their antisocial ways, and I suggest that they probably fit into a Deontological Punishment Model.
In a previous post I discussed Consequential Punishment that is open clemency and vindication. In contrast, Deontological Punishment concerns excoriation and penalization that is given for its own sake, and has no desire to reform the one being punished. It is a vendetta justice open to vengeance. It is payback justice where the person will pay a price for their behavior. In Dante’s worldview there is no problem with punishing and condemning those considered irredeemable to Hell. In Dante’s worldview it is about what the person has done. This punishment is admonishment that is viewed as an ‘eye for an eye,” “tooth for a tooth,” “hand for hand,” and “foot for foot.” It is jailbird punishment proposed by those believing in retribution and imprisonment in cells of isolation —-> that is, lock-up and isolate the person. In a deontological incarceration view of punishment a lex talionis law prevails —-> the law of retaliation. The law of retaliation is one of repentance, recrimination, and repayment. The offender will pay a price for the evil they have done in this world. The law of retaliation is punitive justice. However, I do find a disturbing irony with the law of retaliation, for it appears that those who support deontological punishment often have standards for those being judged and punished higher than standards for their own behaviors.
Advocates for deontological punishment would be well-informed to listen to Friedrich Nietzsche saying, “he who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” (1886) I suggest to those who seek revenge it is probably wise to listen to Talleyrand when he said, “la vengeance est un mets l’on doit manger froud,” or “revenge is a dish that should be eaten cold.” That is, maybe it is a wise idea to forestall censure, condemnation, retaliation, and reprisal until one has had a chance to cool off. If Abraham Lincoln was upset with someone he often wrote an abrasive “hot letter” and put into words what he was angry about. And, after he substantially cooled down, in most cases President Lincoln never sent the letter. Feel free to comment.
Consequential punishment is given after litigation with a goal of beneficial consequences. It is a rescinding justice open to clemency, arbitration, and exoneration. A consequential viewpoint: 1.) recognizes people can change and is open to giving a second chance, 2.) understands after one pays their debt to society they should be able to get on with their life, and 3.) believes that rehabilitation is effective and life renewal can happen. This punishment has a Goethean worldview. In Goethe’s worldview, Faust can be saved even though the selfish-gene predominated most of his life. In Goethe’s worldview there is a realization that we all have had intentions in our life that have not been the best. The consequential worldview concerns compensation. That is, if restitution is made this perspective allows for atonement, redemption, and restoration of reputation. The consequential stance is open to dispensation after recantation. This view advocates for reprievement, expungement, or extirpation of criminal records. This worldview is a Voltairean relativistic view. Voltaire asked, “what is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.” (18th Cent) Recommendation: I suggest consequential punishment should take into consideration that the human brain doesn’t reach full development until ages 21-22, when synaptic pruning and myelination is complete — only then do we have frontal lobe brain capacity to rationally consider our decisions and actions. This is not an excuse for certain actions —> only a reminder that a young brain can do stupid things.
Over many posts I have discussed the human Morality Need. I have argued that without some sense of morality the human species could not last a day. I have pointed out that cultures and individuals interpret our inherited and biologically based Natural Moral Code. Cultural interpretation of the Natural Moral Code also determines what degree and form of punishment will come from individuals who violate culturally set moral standards. Thomas Hobbes maintained that, “to keep society going with peace and confidence, then an artifice – – – – – a Leviathan – – – – – must be worked into the social contract. This Leviathan is the state.” (1660) I view punishment from two major perspectives towards human evil. Both viewpoints have a recognition that bad and evil deeds (actions) exist in this world. Both frames of reference demonstrate an understanding that bad and evil deeds (behaviors) call for some form of punishment. However, there are distinct differences between the two positions related to how punishment should be dished out. In the posts to come I will discuss 1.) consequential punishment, and 2.) deontological punishment.