VICTOR REPPERT SAID:
“I think a fair reading of Grayling in context suggests that the passage of time without punishment is not grounds for not inflicting the punishment now.”
We’ll see about that.
“However, if Polanski had spent time in prison for his offense, and his term was up, I don't think you would find Grayling complaining that his crime was so heinous that we can't let him out.”
The particular illustration is beside the point. Maybe he wouldn’t think that Polanski’s crime is unforgivable. Maybe he doesn’t rank Polaski’s crime on the same plane as the Nazis.
But the point at issue concerns the underlying principle, and not which historical illustrations are apt. According to him, are some crimes so heinous as to be unforgivable? That’s the point.
There’s an fundamental difference between whether the illustrations are debatable, and whether the principle they illustrate is debatable. Even if a particular instance fails to illustrate the principle, that doesn’t, of itself, falsify the principle.
“When he says that certain offenses cannot be forgiven even after a long passage of time, it's pretty clear that what he really means is that the proper judicial punishment ought to be set aside because it happened a long time ago. I would think this reading of Grayling should be pretty obvious, given everything else we know about him. Forgiving, in context, means foregoing criminal prosecution. (So I would withdraw my complaint about his saying we ought not to forgive.)”
Well, if that interpretation is so obvious, then why are you having to retract your previous interpretation (i.e. “So I would withdraw my complaint about his saying we ought not to forgive.”)? Evidently, your previous interpretation wasn’t based on a “fair reading of Grayling in context.” So much for clarity.
Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t even assume that Grayling has a consistent position. Rather, it seems to me that he tries to bundle two positions into one.
On the one hand, there’s his visceral revulsion against certain crimes. Crimes so heinous as to render them unforgivable.
On the other hand, Grayling the philosopher and editorialist tries, in some measure, to rationalize this visceral revulsion by appealing to the principle of deterrence.
Yet he says some other things that go beyond that pragmatic appeal. And, indeed, unless he thought the underlying crime was sufficiently and inherently heinous, there’d be no overriding reason to deter it.
Like many unbelievers, he’s conflicted. His residual sense of moral absolutes is in tension with his secular relativism.
“But I think a proper sense of the sitz im leben of the text, and other contextual matters, suggest to me that you can't get a refuation of the proportionality objection out of Grayling's comments without eisegesis.”
If it’s eisegesis, then why did you have to reverse yourself on your prior interpretation?
Seems like an interpretation is “pretty obvious” as long as it suits your preconceived agenda. But when your “pretty obvious” interpretation backfires, you have an epiphany which leads you to discover the really honest-to-goodness “pretty obvious” interpretation–in contrast to the deceptively merely apparent “pretty obvious” interpretation.
“I'd better stop before I start sounding like a pedant.”
You’d better stop before you backpeddle over a cliff.