Friday, May 09, 2008

Time & crime

victor reppert said...

“Second, you mentioned a murderous child molester and you ask if I think it deserves an infinite punishment. The answer is no, it deserves great punishment surely (assuming he's responsible for his actions) but a punishment of infinite duration? That makes no sense. A repentant child molester deserves punishment but not one of infinite duration. An unrepentant molester is compounding his offenses.”

i) I see that Reppert chose to duck my question. I didn’t ask him if I he thought this crime merited infinite punishment. I already know what his answer is. Indeed, my question presupposes his opposition to everlasting retributive punishment.

Rather, I asked him to spell out his alternative. So, he answers a question I didn’t ask while ducking the question I did ask.

Reppert thinks that his moral intuitions are sufficiently reliable to say that a punishment of “infinite” duration makes no sense.

In that event, his moral intuitions should be sufficiently reliable enough to say what would be a suitable punishment. What kind of punishment? For what duration?

To say “it deserves great punishment” is a copout. Unless his moral intuition is reliable enough to come up with a specific alternative, then why is his moral intuition reliable enough to rule out the opposing thesis?

ii) In addition, as I’ve already pointed out, Reppert is setting up a false antithesis between “finite” and “infinite.”

a) Unending duration is a potential infinite, not an actual infinite. Put another way, unending duration is an actual finite at any point along the temporal continuum.

There’s an unfortunate pattern to the way Reppert argues for his position. He will make a sloppy statement. When you correct him, he will repeat the same sloppy statement. It’s as if he made up his mind about everything at the age of 25.

b) Perhaps a B-theorist would argue that time constitutes an actual infinite. But that move won’t work for a libertarian. If time is a given totality, then the future is determinate rather than indeterminate. A libertarian is logically committed to the A-theory of time.

c) More to the point, as I also mentioned, even if the duration of hell were an actual infinite, the damned don’t experience an actual infinite. They only experience time in finite units.

iii) What makes Reppert think there’s any inherent relation between guilt and the duration of the punishment? Does a murderous child molester become incrementally less peccant with the passage of time?

Does peccancy have a temporal decay rate? If you live long enough, do you gradually pass from a state of guilt to a state of innocence?

Is the murderous child molester 100% peccant at the time he commits the crime, 50% peccant 5 years later, 25% peccant 10 years later, &c?

iv) Why does Reppert think it makes any difference whether the murderous child molester is penitent or impenitent? Is this another one of his moral intuitions?


  1. One reply here would be that he should suffer in proportion to the suffering he inflicted on others. Figure out how much suffering that was, and make him suffer to a similar degree.

  2. Yet, he will continue to curse God and sin in hell meriting more punishment. The process will then continue without end resulting in everlasting punishment.

    Of course, it should also be noted that the sins the man committed were not just against the girl. They were also against the ultimate good, God. Thus, by sinning against the infinite standard, he would, under a certain ethical system, merit eternal punishment.

    I think Reppert should have to make the case for his own ethical system being the *only* just one based on reason alone (since he denies revelation).

    Dr. Reppert, you are truly a humanist. How much of the Bible do you *actually* believe in?

  3. victor reppert said...

    “One reply here would be that he should suffer in proportion to the suffering he inflicted on others. Figure out how much suffering that was, and make him suffer to a similar degree.”

    You keep dropping the ball, Victor. You started this. Your moral intuition tells you that everlasting retributive punishment would be incommensurate with the crime.

    Okay, then. Your moral intuition should also be able to tell you what alternative form of punishment would be commensurate with the crime. Just to say “figure out how much suffering that was, and make him suffer to a similar degree” is an evasion rather than an answer.

    How would you measure that, Victor? What specific punishment would you mete out?

    You presumably don’t think the murderous child molester should be repeatedly raped, sodomized, tortured, and buried alive. So what is your equivalent form of punishment?

    If you can’t answer a question like this, then your vaunted moral intuition isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. If you’re going to attack everlasting retributive punishment on intuitive grounds, then you owe us a clear, workable alternative.

    You’ve been flying by the seat of your pants. The friction is wearing the material very thin.

  4. "Figure out how much suffering that was, and make him suffer to a similar degree."

    And that's *doesn't* equate to our conception of hell?

    You haven't shown our view of hell unjust, then.

    So I'm with Steve, could we get more specifics?

    If you mean it has to end, after they serve their time in hell, then what?

    Let them out? Give them a bus ticket into town and hook them up with a job fixing cars. Report to the heavenly parolman?

    Or, do they, like a bunch of bikers barging into a high school prom, come barging into heaven. Partying like there's no tomorrow. Spike the punch. Kick the guys out and dance with the women all night.

    I'm not following.

    And, is anything you've been arguing supported by the Bible? Or does that not matter?