human sacrifice and death penalty

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Sun Apr 26 10:32:35 UTC 1998

At 09:56 26.04.98 +0200, you wrote:
>At 06:13 PM 25/04/1998 +0200, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
>>You may regard
>>the death penalty as such as a kind of sacrifice if you like, but it is
>>first and foremost based on the idea that it will scare other people from
>>doing the same kind of crime as the executed criminal (and then, of course,
>>there is the revenge part!). The "terror component" of the death penalty
>>should make us wary of facile comparisons between the death penalty and
>>sacrifice. They belong to two different spheres of concepts.
>Apart the fact that I wonder what "spheres of concepts" may mean,

Spheres of concepts: Sacrifice deals with the relationship between humans
and the divine powers. It is based on certain ideas about how the cosmos works.

Death penalty: Is related to social control. Society defines certain acts as
unacceptable and wants to put an end to them. The methods chosen are based
upon certain ideas about how humans function as individuals and social
beings, how their behaviour is regulated etc. Deterrence and revenge are
prominent motives for using the death penalty.

and as this
>list is supposed to  discuss indological topics not personal prejudices, I'll
>let medhAtithi (around the 8th century ?) answer to Dr. Fosse.

Pardon me? Which personal prejudices are you talking about? My remark was
trigged by Mr. Hoogcarspel's suggestion that there might a kind of
connection between sacrifice and the death penalty as practiced with the
electric chair. I simply pointed out that this is not a meaningful
comparison. Quoting Medhatithi's views are irrelevant here. In modern
society, the rationalization for using the death penalty is deterrence, not
sacrifice or purification. In the popular mind, there is no doubt a strong
component of revenge (just see the reacions to one of the last much
publicized executions in Texas). Personal prejudice has nothing to do with
it, I am just referring to observable facts.

Indology is not a place to discuss matters of criminal law and penalty, but
for the record, let me add that I regard both the views expressed by people
who support the death penalty and the views of Medhatithi as simplistic.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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