human sacrifice and death penalty

George Cronk george9252 at EMAIL.MSN.COM
Mon Apr 27 23:04:52 UTC 1998

I am sorry I intervened in the Fezas-Fosse debate about the death penalty
and human sacrifice.  I did not intend to "make an argument" for the death
penalty, but only to suggest that, in addition to deterrence and social
control issues, many would justify the DP on retributivist grounds.  (I
doubt that the DP can be justified on deterrence or social control grounds.)
I do think that there is something to be said for the retributive theory of
punishment.  Is that approach so scantily supported in Indian thought as to
be beneath contempt and to place retributivists in a category that DESERVES
NO consideration?  I wouldn't say that I DESERVE an answer from Fezas, but I
would say that I do not deserve a slap.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jean Fezas <jean.fezas at WANADOO.FR>
Date: Sunday, April 26, 1998 8:36 PM
Subject: Re: human sacrifice and death penalty

>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
>>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, and as
>list is supposed to  discuss indological topics not personal prejudices,
>let medhAtithi (around the 8th century ?) answer to Dr. Fosse.
>Commentary on Mn.8.318 : [Translation of Ganganatha Jha]  :
>... people may have the following idea : - "protection of the people is not
>possible without hurting (criminals), and protection serves the purpose of
>king; how then can the corporeal punishment be held to serve the purpose of
>person punished?"
>[...] why should protection of the people be not possible without the hurt
>(involved in the punishment)? If the hurt is inflicted with the idea that
>the man were not punished, he would repeat the act, - this purpose could be
>served even by reprimanding and such other means. If the idea be that on
>him punished others would desist from similar acts, - the suffering meant
>to be
>caused could be brought about even by fines. Then again, even though
>are punished, thousands of men are found to do the same act again and
>From all this it follows that the corporeal punishment, while tending to
>'protection' (of the people) has to be regarded as serving the purpose of
>purifying the person punished. It is for this reason that there are rules
>down regarding the cutting of limbs and other forms of corporeal
>All these produces an invisible effect in the persons punished, and at the
>time serves the purpose of the king (in the form of protection).
>As far as answers can only be given to arguments, I think that George
>who wrote :
>>It may be (although I'm not sure) that some criminals actually DESERVE the
>>death penalty as punishment for the awful crimes they have committed.  In
>>other words, the point may not be deterrence; and revenge and retribution
>>are not (necessarily) identical.  I agree, however, that this has nothing
>>do with human sacrifice in any religious context.

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