Morality and Punishment
This paper focuses on the importance of punishment in the context of maintaining good social behavior and minimizing the delinquency from the early age. However, the use of force is often a decision difficult to make by the authorities, and this creates the need to develop ways that might affect behavior without punishment in the social context. The basis of punishment for a crime was depicted by the early philosophers, and that practice was implemented in the earliest legal systems. The Platonic school of thought raises several issues related to morality and punishment of crimes. After Socrates manages to convince his ‘fellow lógos’ that it is better to suffer an injustice than to commit it, a second question arises: What is preferable once the injustice is committed, be cared for by it or go unpunished (Mullane, 1989)?
Sophists who accompany Socrates are immediate to respond that it will always be better not to receive any reprimand and go unpunished. As in so many other times, it is up to the other part of Plato to argue against the tide: in his opinion, whoever commits an injustice acquires a debt to society, so we will have to find a way to pay off that debt. Even for those who have erred, it will always be preferable to receive the corresponding punishment, because in this way their conscience will be calmer and they will be able to face the rest of their lives in better conditions. The sentence imposed becomes a purification that seeks to erase the injustice that originates it. If by the immoral actions we separate ourselves from society, by punishment we merge with it again.
To take the idea to a terrain that is not exactly that of morality, but which has a close relationship with it is education. For several decades, we have lived in a kind of discredit of punishment. Punitive action is considered an educational failure. The recommendations of positive reinforcement are only a complement to alternative arguments that show us that through punishments nothing is learned. Alter, modify or cancel the right to education of students, it is said, does not solve anything: what is gained by leaving at home who permanently disrupts the order of the class punitive action is ill seen unless accompanied by a saving adjective: pedagogical or educational. There are punishments that, by what is seen, do serve to transmit teaching: repair the damage caused, assume mundane tasks or even commit to the better use of the classes. In this way, we are told, we treat students as rational beings and not as animals, with whom punishment (even physical) is more common (Shafer-Landau, 1991).
The problem with these pedagogical punishments is that the students themselves or their families can reject them. On more than one occasion sweeping the courtyards as a punishment for staining them was an ‘indecent’ and ‘shameful’ task, so they were not willing for their children to perform these repairing tasks. Certain educational punishments are, therefore, poorly viewed. The classmates of students who behave unfairly and these same students feel psychologically undermined. The first because sometimes have difficulties to follow the normal development of the class. The consequences of certain actions are serious and are punished. In the opinion of Socrates, this message (perhaps subliminal) was essential for the moral formation of citizens. Judging by the bureaucracy that implies an educational file or by the norms of rights and duties, the educational authorities of our time are not in agreement with the Athenian philosopher.
This unequal distribution of power necessarily forces us to look with the magnifying glass at any use of punishment by those who have the power to exercise it, lest they end up using it for dishonest purposes. History is full of examples, including our personal history. We speak in particular of the use of physical punishment, but not only of this. Any procedure that involves punishment must ensure the common good, which is not the same as common sense. It is not convenient to forget that control is given all the time, whether we like it or not. We can choose to ignore it or take it into account and make efforts so that the exercise of control, whether using reinforcements or punishment procedures, is as fair as possible.
According to new studies there are now better practices to affect social behavior in children and delinquents as well. The concept of early education in ethics and more awareness on the sense of liberty and other’s rights is the most important alternative to actual physical punishment. Schools and many educators are practicing the reward and punishment concept where reward is given to good behavior and extra work is given as the consequence of bad behavior. This keeps in check the morality of the punishment as there is no physical force used and the message to the delinquent is direct and simple and not labeling to the person (Wood, 2010).
Mullane, H. (1989). The Philosophy of Punishment. Teaching Philosophy, 12(3), 324-327. http://dx.doi.org/10.5840/teachphil198912386
Shafer-Landau, R. (1991). Can Punishment Morally Educate?. Law And Philosophy, 10(2), 189. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3504911
Wood, D. (2010). Punishment: Consequentialism. Philosophy Compass, 5(6), 455-469. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2010.00287.x