#96 Erasing Guilt

#96 Erasing Guilt

Today’s comic is inspired by a discussion I got involved in over at The Garden of Forking Paths related to the subject of prepunishment. GFP is an excellent site you should check out, if you’re at all interested in philosophy blogs.

One of the really interesting, and creepy, things about this idea is that we may actually be getting close to the reality of erasing targeted memories. Sure it might be nice for easing the stress of traumatic memories, but I have to say that the potential abuses of this kind of technology make me more than a little uneasy…

Discussion (5)¬

  1. ht says:

    is this why politicians always claim to be unable to remember anything they’re accused of?

  2. Raijinili says:

    You can also consider locking people up to be preventative rather than rehabilitative, but the current justice system doesn’t follow this philosophy.

    Also, I thought you were going to give Manson Alzheimer’s.

  3. abeo says:

    Raijinili brings up the same point I was going to. If someone is deemed likely to repeat their crimes, regardless of the presence or absence of the memory of their crimes, they should still be punished, depending on the punishment of course.

    This brings up the question of whether or not punishment is ever ethical and if it becomes more acceptable when it it is fulfilling a purpose other than merely punishing the recipient of the punishment.

    The classic example is imprisonment. Is imprisoning someone more acceptable than whipping them in response to a crime? Most would say that it is more acceptable because it also serves to keep the criminal from repeating their crimes, if temporarily. Others might say that the imprisonment is in fact a greater infringement upon the criminal’s rights than the whipping, and is not justified by the possible gain on the side of society as a whole.

    All in all, it is an interesting series of concepts that should probably be getting a lot more attention than they currently are, to the detriment of all those who are processed by the judicial system.

  4. chaospet says:

    If you consider punishment to be primarily preventative rather than retributive, then you might be able to justify punishing someone who cannot remember their crimes, I agree. But you would also be able to justify punishing someone who has NEVER committed a crime, so long as you had good evidence that they would be likely to commit a crime in the future. That strikes me as unintuitive, to say the least.

    Of course that doesn’t mean there isn’t a role for prevention in the justification of the institution of punishment. We might say that punishment is justified primarily by its preventative role, but nonetheless it has to be constrained by considerations of desert. In other words, a necessary condition for punishing is that the person must be morally responsible for committing a crime – you can’t punish individuals who are presently innocent (like the person who may be likely to commit crimes in the future), no matter how much benefit it might have for society.

  5. Chaospet,

    As per you last remark about punishing people before they commit the crime. A move has been made about this particular thought, it’s called Minority Report. You should give it a watch.

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