“But what use is vengeance to me, what use to me is hell for torturers, what can hell put right again, when those children have been tortured to death?” Fyodor Dostoyevsky “The Brothers Karamazov”
I don’t care for retributive justice!
What purpose does it serve?
Take for instance an extreme case:
A child has been brutally raped and then murdered.
I feel sickened at the thought of such a thing.
Imagine what it must have been like for that poor, innocent and powerless child to undergo such trauma.
If I was a witness to the event I would do all in my power to stop it.
I would kill the man if that was what it took to rescue that child, hold her in my arms and whisper in her ear:
“It’s OK. It’s over now. Don’t worry. You’re safe. Where do you live? I’ll carry you home.”
But let’s imagine the event is already over.
What is the use of retributive justice?
Let us even suppose that free-will is true; in the metaphysical “all things being the same you could have done differently” sense.
Still what purpose does retributive justice serve; what purpose does vengeance serve?
It won’t un-rape and un-murder the child!
I can understand the anger of the parents.
I can understand their desire to hurt the one who took their dear one away from them.
It comes from a strong urge to do something to bring their child back; but there’s nothing they can do to achieve that; but they feel they can’t just do nothing!
But all vengeance will do is give a brief fix to their grief and once their thirst for vengeance has been satisfied their grief will come back; screaming stronger than before because their grief can only be allayed by two things: getting their child back and time.
In a sense a parent in such a situation is at war with grief; by seeking and gaining vengeance they delay the inevitable.
The longer you delay facing your grief the stronger the hold it will have on you; it will drive you insane; it drove my aunt insane and ruined her life because she went to the bottle instead of facing the pain.
“There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of your enemy” Niccolo Machiavelli
The pain of the perpetrator is just a paltry, pale shadow compared to what the parents really want.
Doesn’t retributive justice in the end just mean an increase in suffering.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t punish the criminal; I’m saying we shouldn’t do so out of vengeance.