An eye for an eye

March 6, 2007 at 4:14 pm (ethics)

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31 Comments

  1. seeking wisdom said,

    First let me say Hi i am new here and i am mostly interested in philosophy?.and would wish to learn more about it?.

    So what do you think? is it right to believe that an eye for an eye is morally right or an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind, for there should be a time when a person should take revenge and a time they should learn how to forgive

  2. evan said,

    I don’t think there’s really much to say other than “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

    Heh, sorry if that just adds another to cliche to this discussion.

  3. seeking wisdom said,

    you right two wrongs don’t make it right and the whole an eye for an eye thing seems wrong to me…i have had some family members killed, for some odd reason i never blamed the killer…the only thing one can do is pray for there lost one rather than revange…thanks anyways..

  4. keda said,

    There are two sayings “An eye for an eye” (Leviticus somewhere) “Do not repay evil with evil” (1 Peter 3:9) but they are not really contraries. The famous quote by Gandhi, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” suggests that retributive justice is wrong for some other reason. Violence breeds more violence but which one comes out alive, the pacifist or the murderer? Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions. In the end it does not come down to which alternative is less harmful, but which strategy is sustainable.

  5. periculum said,

    1 of 1 people found this post helpful
    Posted Dec 29, 2005 – 02:02 AM:
    People keep refering to Revenge, but that is not the ideology behind an eye for an eye. What is trying to be said is that one should reap what one sows, repay with like, get what one gives. In short, there should be consequences to ones actions and those consequences should be of equal value. When a person commits a crime they should receive a punishment equal to and befitting of that crime. Eye for an eye, not for a head nor for a toenail. Not a harsher punishment nor leniency. This is the idea behind all of our modern conceptions of Justice. To deny it is to deny consequences for crime, to allow people to do as they will and let crime, chaos, and anarchy run wild.

    I agree, two wrongs do not make a right. However, neither does ignoring a wrong. As was stated by keda, with a murderer and a pacifist, who lives? the murderer. If we were to ignore murders and let them occur without repurcussion then society would go down hill fast.

    Now some would suggest “alternative punishments” for crimes. but punishment is still punishment and thus we are falling back to the eye for an eye theory just leaning towards leniency. And who truly believes that using a method less severe than the initial crime to punish the crime is really going to deter it from happening very well? Or that such is fair and just.

    Some would then argue that punishment doesn’t deter crime, that we instead need to focus on eliminating the factors that lend crime to arise and rehabilitating those that do commit crime. This is a bunch of bull. We all know that there are people out there, most people actually, that have few qualms about taking advantage of others and would commit crime if given the chance regardless of environmental factors. Studies have shown a good percentage of people are willing to commit murder for a price if assured a lack of punishment. I personally know that I’ve been tempted to shoplift and only the thought of the consequences thereof (and the stores video cameras) have kept me from doing so. Ergo, punishment does deter crime and (this one may still be up for debate) we could not eliminate crime by focusing on attempts to eliminate a conducive environment for it. I will agree that we should focus more on rehibilitation.

    I don’t like getting into personal things, but I want to comment on the situation you described breifly. You might not blame the killer, but I’m sure you don’t want their crime to go unpunished and for them to be allowed to do it again to someone else. Thus you would support the “eye for an eye” way of thinking. Consequences, that’s what it’s all about.

  6. zolk seth said,

    Crime is a social construct.
    Justice is a social construct.
    Revenge and/or punishment is immoral, immature, deterimental, irrational, inhumane, & hypocritical. The only “justice” of a commited “crime” is prevention or cure. If you fail to prevent a crime then you only have yourself to blame for security.

    Retaliating against the criminal with anything less than absolute prevention or cure is only misplacing anger that rightfully is for yourself. It’s always the victims fault, those who voluntarily submit to oppression lose thier right to complain. Existentially, you’re responsible for your own actions as well the actions of everyone else. You deserve what you get, because you get what you deserve (since you’re ultimately responsible for everything that happens to you.)

    Eye for an eye would make the whole world blind, so cut off everyones hands(prevention) or cut off everyones heads (cure) if you want to keep your eyesight. Nothing can be unjust in the animal kingdom, might makes right.

  7. periculum said,

    I might not have been as clear as I’d like in my post regarding the ideology of prevention. It’s not possible. The nature of human kind is such that immoral acts will be committed. The only way to prevent this is by eliminating freedom or life (your comments on cutting of the hand or the head are good metaphors). Now, if we were to inact either method, then we are ourselves committing immoral acts, and thus we have failed as immoral acts continue by us if not by anyone else. The only way this is possible and not be an immoral act is if everyone in every generation voluntarily submits to relinquishing their freewill, and that ain’t happening.

    You also seem to be misinterpreting the statement “an eye for an eye” as you go on in your post to say that you agree with it. You stated that “You deserve what you get, because you get what you deserve” and that is the idea behind “an eye for an eye.” Ensuring that people get what they deserve and reap as they have sown.

  8. zolk seth said,

    I’ve interpreted the statement “eye for an eye” as “the punishment must fit the crime.” I disagree with it cuz I disagree with punishment. I am for natural justice, which doesn’t necessarily dismiss the possibility for punishment, though it doesn’t condone it under my definition of just.

  9. Modal Ontologist said,

    I can’t think of a short way to explain the iterated-prisoner’s-dilemma-strategy called “Tit-for-Tat” so, as a space saver, I must ask that you look it up (Game Theory).

    For those who know Tit-for-Tat (or those who looked it up), the difference between it and “eye for an eye” is that “eye for an eye” only talks about repaying evil with evil, with no mention of repaying good with good. Tit-for-Tat says both, repay evil with evil and good with good. The first time you ever encounter someone you should be good to them. From then on you do to them what they did to you the very last turn. E.G. if he/she is good to you in return then you are good to him/her, resulting in goodness all around. But if he/she is bad to you after your intial goodness to him/her, whether it happens the very next turn or 100 turns later, then you ought to be bad to him/her on the very next turn.
    – Remember that this strategy (in the form of a computer program) competed with hundreds of other strategies (also in the form of computer programs), many of which were insanely complicated chains of “if-then-if-then-if-then-…”, and it beat them all, time and time again.

    It sounds like “eye for an eye” but the point is that in a prisoner’s dilemma society, where the entire population is “Tit-for-Tat-ers”, there would be universal cooperation; goodness all around.

    Granted, not every social encounter obeys the rules of the prisoner’s dilemma. In fact there are 4 different prisoner’s dilemma-type games. Two of the four reward mutual cooperation with mutual benefit (the actual prisoner’s dilemma is one of these). The other two yield mutual benefit not when both players cooperate, but when one cooperates and one defects. Literally, when playing either of these two games, if you want to score the most you can score, you better hope that your opponent does the opposite of whatever you do, which means that, if you cooperate, you better hope he defects, which many people find counter-intuitive.

    It remains to be seen whether Tit-for-Tat would be the winning strategy if it was pitted up against other programs in an iterated game where every encounter is, at random, one of the four prisoner’s dilemma-type games (yet over the long run each game is played an equal number of times by each player).

    What do y’all think?

  10. Modal Ontologist said,

    “Eye for an eye” was put up for criticism in the opening post. Those who were against “eye for an eye” supplied “two wrongs don’t make a right” AS JUSTIFICATION of their claim that eye for an eye is wrong. But any of you who did this are begging the question.

    “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, in this instance, calls the initial taking of the eye wrong AND the follow-up taking of an eye wrong, and then concludes that these two wrongs cannot combine to make a right. Although there is no doubt that the first taking of an eye is wrong, whether or not the second taking of an eye is wrong is EXACTLY what is being called into dispute, so “two wrongs don’t make a right” cannot be used as a premise for the conclusion: “‘eye for an eye’ is wrong.” Nobody who isn’t already convinced that “eye for an eye” is wrong would accept this premise.

    I’m not saying that I think “eye for an eye” is right. I’m just saying that if it is wrong, it cannot be wrong FOR THAT REASON.

  11. DarkBulzeeb said,

    In my opinion an eye for an eye is not necessary. Revenge does nothing, my belief in Karma helps me believe this but that’s besides the point. The fact of it is, if you torture someone for torturing you, your no better then them. Your still torturing, which would mean you did the same as them. Just because they tortured you, does not mean you should torture them becaue even if it is “them” your still torturing somebody. Or killing someone becuz they killed someone else. Why does it make it right for you to kill them when killing is wrong, but, I don’t believe death is a punishment, but, that’s not the point.

  12. the boss said,

    ‘An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind’ – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

  13. periculum said,

    I’d love to hear any conceptions of justice that does not support the eye for an eye theory. Eye for an eye is giving to them as they gave to you, or taking as they took. I have a hard time imagining anything that could be considered justice lacking the idea of equal treatment, which is what it boils down to.

    Eye for an eye is not stating that either taking is wrong, it is merely repayment in kind. If they want an eye they have to give an eye. Fairness and equality is what it’s about, not right and wrong.

    With the torture and murder question, when you do in kind to them you are not torturing or murdering them you are repaying them. Giving to them in kind the consequences that their actions wrought. There is a difference between performing immoral actions and providing the justified consequences for immoral actions. Would you have us reward them instead? or maybe just ignore them and let them continue? Now the belief in Karma or a Judged afterlife presupposes a natural eye for an eye system in place rendering such actions on our part to ensure Justice unnecessary, though not out of place or wrong.

  14. paul harcot said,

    Didn’t any of you see Batman Begins?

    Bruce: ‘Sometimes justice and revenge are the same thing.’
    Rachel: ?No, they?re never the same thing: Justice is about harmony, revenge is about you making yourself feel better?

    See there? Hollywood isn’t all bad. :>

  15. DarkBulzeeb said,

    Posted Jan 1, 2006 – 11:51 PM:
    If Karma exists then an eye for an eye is unecessary. But is it justice Puriculum, or revenge?? Think about it, punishment is not always derived on the exact action of what the other has placed. If someone has stolen from you, how can you punish them in the way that you described?? Can you steal from them, if it’s against the law why should you be allowed to do it but they aren’t?? It would mean that you both broke the law becuz your trying to pay the other back their consequences.

    The idea is flawed. What are you teaching someone who tortured you if you torture them back?? Nothing, your just as bad as they are if you do it. It matters not if they deserve the consequences or not, becuz you still did wrong, just as they did. How do you know that it’s not your place to decide their punishment,

    of course, this goes to my idea of how do I know if I am not the one who should decide their punishment.

    There’s also the idea of motivation. Someone steals from you, their punishment is to be stolen from. A short and sweet punishment as opposed to months in prison. What’s more motivational?? When does it stop?? it won’t, they’ll keep stealing and stealing and they’ll never learn, and during that process they will steal more and more as opposed to the amount of time they are in prison, in which they don’t have the opportunity to do it again for a long time. At least with punishment they probably are fined along with it. It shouldn’t be about consequences, it should be about motivating the criminal from stopping. Or stopping the criminal.

  16. paul harcot said,

    Social revenge is justice…personal justice is revenge.
    Food for thought.

  17. DarkBulzeeb said,

    Social revenge…. I’ve never heard of that. What is it exactly?

  18. periculum said,

    Nobody was talking about revenge. We were talking about “eye for an eye” which is fairly punishing someone for their actions. I state that this is the basis for all forms of justice.

    eye for an eye means the punishment has to equal the crime. It does not mean the punishment has to be the same as the crime. Someone steals from you, the only punishment is not stealing from them. either of your alternatives still follow the logic of an eye for an eye, imprisoning or fining.
    Karma also follows eye for an eye, it’s just not us ensuring it is carried out. Karma states that they will be treated in accordance to their actions, which is what eye for an eye states should happen.

    Now, paul quoted that justice is about harmony, but I fail to see how that could exist without eye for an eye. Please elaborate.

  19. skillz said,

    periculum wrote:
    I’d love to hear any conceptions of justice that does not support the eye for an eye theory.

    I already stated my idea of “justice” which doesn’t support “an eye for an eye.” It’s an absolute type of justice, one that’s concerned primarily with prevention. Not punishiment or revenge. Some may consider prevention as punishment, though it’s not a penalty, but the only logical consequence for removing an agent’s potential for harm w/o becoming harmful yourself.

  20. skillz said,

    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”- Nietzsche

    For example, if someone harmed me then punishing them would do me no good and most likely even encourage the person to do more harm. So I must take the steps of preventing it from happening in the first place and if those endeavors fail then I only have myself to blame. Then I just have to try preventing it from happening again. There’s no need or justification for punishment or revenge in this scenerio or any other.

  21. DarkBulzeeb said,

    Puriculum, Karma is not used as a way to punish, but to teach, and to keep balance. And eye for eye may not be about revenge, but how do you know it will teach anyone anything?? But, the same can be said about imprisonment. The fact of it is, imprisonment prevents those who have disobeyed the law from doing it again for a long time if not for the rest of your life, and it can be a motivation, it can, or can’t teach. It’s not an eye for an eye because it benefits. An eye for an eye merely states that you punish someone for punishing another. It won’t benefit us one bit.

    If that is what you were getting at with benefit. Also, with eye for an eye, you can also punish those who are innocent. There have been many people who have gone to prison and have been givin the death penalty for a crime they didn’t commit.

  22. paul harcot said,

    “Now, paul quoted that justice is about harmony, but I fail to see how that could exist without eye for an eye. Please elaborate.”

    Its all about the individual versus society as a whole. To protect society we need punishments for tresspasses not for revenge. Revenge takes it to a personal level. No we need it for justice.

    Justice ensures a few different things.
    For one it ends the cycle. Once the suspect is found guilty…not just finger pointing but all evidence laid out, look at by several parties, cussed and discussed. No one can come forward and attack society as a whole in order to get back at the workers of justice.

    Revenge on the other hand hints of the eye for and eye thing. Although it sounds fair what if we got the wrong guy? What were the intentions of why the ‘eye’ was lost. (eye is used figuritively here)

    I know intentions won’t necessarily get you off the hook, but it may lessen the punishment. Eye for an eye does not allow for any lessening of the punishment.

    You shot an arrow at that deer, you missed him, and you hit me in the eye. I know you didn’t do it on purpose. Who cares? Now I want your eye.
    Sounds like vindication or revenge.
    Justice says thats too harsh, it was an accident. The victim may recieve some compensation but taking anothers eye won’t get yours back.

  23. paul harcot said,

    Harmony = congruousness.
    The quality of agreeing; being suitable and appropriate.

    Justice is more harmonious and congruousness. When it is exacted properly it is complete. There is nothing else to settle…it is done.

    Revenge is more of getting even. It suggest a game. You scored against me so now I’m gonna score against you. However it never ends. An eye for an eye is just like that. Don’t confuse it with justice.

  24. ingrid said,

    skillz wrote:
    I’ve interpreted the statement “eye for an eye” as “the punishment must fit the crime.” I disagree with it cuz I disagree with punishment. I am for natural justice, which doesn’t necessarily dismiss the possibility for punishment, though it doesn’t condone it under my definition of just.

    your ‘natural justice, free of punishment’ is a fantasy. not everyone is able to see what wrong they have done. sometimes people need to be shown. even in the event of these revelations, some people do not care. so punishment against these apathetic people is a way to justice.
    maybe i am misunderstanding your ‘natural justice’, because it sounds ridiculous.

  25. ingrid said,

    Periculum: amen. very well said.

    the ‘eye for an eye’ theory is the most beneficial one. not only does recieving back a wrong you dealt have the capacity (depending on the individual) to teach you a lesson, it brings the score back to neutral; it levels the field. an eye for an eye only leaves a person blind if they do not learn from the retributive justice. and if a person still doesn’t see their wrongdoing, even after the foregoing of the punishment in the style of ‘an eye for an eye’, they were blind in the first place …

  26. DarkBulzeeb said,

    score?? It’s not about keeping score, it’s about prevention. That just means all of life is a game. An eye for an eye merely teaches you to take an eye if your eye has been taken, but it does not originate with all crimes. They take life and their life is to be taken. Whats gained here?? There dead, nothing is gained. If someone took your eye and you took theirs, it would be even and you both would benefit. Killing another for killing someone else does nothing. An eye for an eye is a flawed symbol, becuz taking life won’t give the one who was killed their life back

  27. skillz said,

    ingrid wrote:
    your ‘natural justice, free of punishment’ is a fantasy. not everyone is able to see what wrong they have done. sometimes people need to be shown. even in the event of these revelations, some people do not care. so punishment against these apathetic people is a way to justice.
    maybe i am misunderstanding your ‘natural justice’, because it sounds ridiculous.

    If it sounds ridiculous to a view of pro-retribution then I’m on the right track and you understand it just fine or perhaps you’re “blind in the first place.” There’s no need to “show” them anything, as you said they’re prolly apathtic to it anyways. It’s of no consolation that the wrong-doer knows what they have done. Retaliating is not going to change what has already happend. It is irrelevant whether they know the wrong that has been done or not.

    My way of “natural justice” is to be fair. To be fair to everyone means being fair to everyone regardless of if they are being unfair to you. If you have been wronged it is only cuz you have allowed yourself to be wronged. It’s called responsibility, everyones responsible for thier actions, their inactions, & the actions of others. Everyones resonsible for their capabilities, including their capability for preventing wrong doings. If one fails to prevent a wrong-doing then it’s their own fault. To retaliate is to blame someone else for your failure to maintain security. You don’t have to fantasize to own-up to your own shortcomings.

  28. ingrid said,

    skillz wrote:
    There’s no need to “show” them anything, as you said they’re prolly apathtic to it anyways. It’s of no consolation that the wrong-doer knows what they have done. Retaliating is not going to change what has already happend. It is irrelevant whether they know the wrong that has been done or not.

    how is it fair to judge all wrong-doers on the ‘probability’ that they are apathetic to their crimes? how is it fair to neglect the possibilty that bringing their crime to their awareness could help correct them and prevent future crimes? of course its of consolation that they recognize what they have done! eye for an eye is not done as a means to retaliation as long as the purpose of it is to force people to recognize their crimes.
    skillz wrote:
    If you have been wronged it is only cuz you have allowed yourself to be wronged. It’s called responsibility, everyones responsible for thier actions, their inactions, & the actions of others. Everyones resonsible for their capabilities, including their capability for preventing wrong doings. If one fails to prevent a wrong-doing then it’s their own fault. To retaliate is to blame someone else for your failure to maintain security. You don’t have to fantasize to own-up to your own shortcomings.

    so are you saying here that if your mother is murdered it is her fault for being incapable of fending her murderer off? how can you say we are responsible for the actions of others?
    to retaliate is not to blame someone for not being able to stop them from jabbing you in the chest with a knife, it is something people do to give thier offender a taste of their own medicine, thinking it will bring them justice.

  29. skillz said,

    1.how is it fair to judge all wrong-doers on the ‘probability’ that they are apathetic to their crimes? It’s of no consequence that the offender care or not care or care a little a bit about what wrong they have commited. Their emotional state doesn’t matter anymore than their date of birth or personal history or love life or anything else about them, other than we have been wronged by them. Though it is not their fault that we have been wronged by them for it is our own.

    Fair is treating others the way you wish to be treated. I don’t ever want to be retaliated on so I will not do it myself. I anticipate that others will not share my same principle of fair. So, to be fair, all I can do is prepare for & prevent any potential wrong doings.

    2.how is it fair to neglect the possibilty that bringing their crime to their awareness could help correct them and prevent future crimes? If you mean, verbally telling them “you have wronged me” then sure go for it(not that there’s any guaranteed chance of success), but if you mean making them aware through retaliation then NO. You’d only be wronging them instead. No one can wrong you w/o your consent. If you have been wronged then your consent has been infered through your action of allowing it to happen or inaction of stopping it. This may qualify as a degree of Pacifism or Passive-aggressive behavior.

    3.so are you saying here that if your mother is murdered it is her fault for being incapable of fending her murderer off? Precisely. It’s always the victims fault.

    4.how can you say we are responsible for the actions of others? Because humans are born free, free to control anything & everything including themself & all that’s around them, which includes others.

  30. ingrid said,

    skillz,
    i completely disagree with your proposition that people can control everything. and i think that classifying a person’s physical inability to stop another force working against them as ‘passive’ is absolutely wrong.
    if a car was coming at me at 80 km withouth my knowledge of it until the last second and i was unable to stop it from hitting me, that does not make me passive, it makes me an average human. if we were all supermen or gods, maybe controlling the forces of the world would be easier … but uh … we’re not.
    once again, we are not at fault for the actions of others. you have not yet stated HOW we can be held accountable for another’s actions, and i would be interested in hearing that.

  31. skillz said,

    devotchka wrote:
    you have not yet stated HOW we can be held accountable for another’s actions, and i would be interested in hearing that.

    I have. You were to infer that “because humans are born free, free to control anything & everything including themself & all that’s around them, which includes others,” that they are responsible for everything that happens to them and that they are accountable for others actions because they posses the power to control, or atleast prevent, others actions. Humans have the capacity to “play god.”

    You’re free to disagree and free to not control everything if you so wish and you’re free to retaliate percieved wrongs when you know well that it’s your own fault you didn’t stop them in the first place. You’re free to be immature- your life, your choice.

    It’s your fault that you didn’t acquire the knowledge of the speeding car approaching and it’s your fault that you didn’t prevent the car from damaging or wronging you. You are unable of nothing that you don’t allow yourself to be unable of. “They succeed, because they think they can.” -Virgil

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