human sacrifice and death penalty (mea culpa)

Jean Fezas jean.fezas at WANADOO.FR
Sun Apr 26 20:11:50 UTC 1998

At 09:56 26.04.98 +0200 Lars Martin Fosse  wrote:

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

I beg  the pardon of Lars Martin Fosse, but 
A) I am perverse enough to think  that  "the relationship between humans and
the divine powers" and "social control" are deeply correlated, and that the
study of such correlations has some interest... 
B) I think that "observable facts"  are "the facts that I observe", and that
the way I interpret them may be influenced by personal prejudice. As
Monseigneur Lamothe said to one of my friend, his student, who
misinterpreted a
point of buddhist doctrine, "Mon pauvre ami, vous serez toujours un
C) I tried to understand the position of dharmazAstra on death penalty, an
effort I supposed connected not only with juridical anthropology, but also
D) To this effect I cited medhAtithi, the oldest -- and most revered
commentary on Manu. I confess, I stupidely trusted G. Bühler, PV Kane, JDM
Derrett and a few others, who described his work as "erudite", "full of
interesting information". 
E) Worse, I even imagined that indology was a place to discuss matters of
[hindu] criminal law and penalty. I should have known better...


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