human sacrifice and death penalty

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Tue Apr 28 08:16:51 UTC 1998

Martin Gansten wrote:

>As far as I can see, retribution is precisely the idea behind Manu's stating
>that criminals are purified (absolved) by being punished, and thus a very
>basic Hindu (or Brahminical, Lars, if you insist) concept. For a modern
>defense of the retributive view, see C.S. Lewis' article "The Humanitarian
>Theory of Punishment" (1949). Several good points there.

I am not sure that we have to make a distinction between Hindu and
Brahminical here, Martin. My point was simply that in practical politics,
things are not necessarily done according to the principles of religion.
There are alternative, non-religious intellectual paradigms.

But an idea struck me a few moments ago. In the seventies, the prevalent
attitude to punishment in this country was that the criminal should be
regarded as "sick" and that punishment should be a "treatment". The criminal
was therefore not only offered a jail sentence but also various kinds of
support, such as psychological treatment, education etc. I hate stretching
concepts too far, but I think there is a bit of the "purification" doctrine
in this approach, albeit in a modern version. Now, the concept of crime as
social illness seems to be on its way out. Or as a Norwegian top lawyer once
put it: "the point of putting professional criminals in jail is to keep them
off the streets for a while."

Lars Martin 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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