Harry Hope's Saloon

This blog takes it's name from the setting for O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh -- a lousy gin-mill; a smoked-out, greasy dive where the habitues have all landed, it seems, permanently. Their lives, in each case, are paralyzed by fear and laziness. Like my own.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Justice for a New Frontier

Here's the socio-biological argument against executing juvenile murderers in the case of Roper v. Simmons, now before the Supreme Court, very simply put:

Juvenile ofenders lack the brain development and social maturity required to distinguish between matters of ultimate right and wrong, and therefore, as in cases of mental retardation, cannot be held to ultimate account for their rash, ill-considered decisions, however evil the consequences.

Okay. But is there any sense in which we might say that by definition one would have to lack some capacity normal to a person's majority in order to commit murder? In other words, isn't murder always a case of some retardation - some fundamental immaturity? What then?


At 1:47 AM, Blogger J. Goard said...

To the last question: no. To the penultimate: probably not any reasonable sense that's not appallingly parochial. It's only because we live in a very recent (and still rare) kind of society with an complicated and flexible network of social structures that murder isn't part of our normal repertoire.

There's a deeper issue here of the relationship between concepts like morality, spirituality, awareness on the one hand and sanity, health, naturalness on the other. I'm no Hobbesian (except maybe in the tiger sense), but I do object to using concepts from the latter category (roughly, the functioning of human systems) to the former. The examined life is often profoundly dysfunctional, as attested in Kafka's _Hunger Artist_ and in the author himself, and the well-functioning life often quite barbarous. If we can achieve both true spirituality and healthy function, it's an accident of our birth in one of the best societies that has thus far existed, NOT a deep congruence between these concepts.

At 2:25 AM, Blogger J. Goard said...

Check out what Julian Sanchez has to say on this issue.


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