Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Response Quote

I had to go into my grandmother’s house again, for the first time in five months. Took cashmere skirts and hand-knitted cardigans, dead plants in pots, soccer balls, depressing detritus.
I was pressed into accepting a small bulletin board from the garage pinned mostly with xeroxed cartoons. But cut out carefully was this quote:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point to satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do it with the approval of their consciences.

C.S. Lewis


Tim said...

This is one of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes. It's from his essay "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment", which can be found in God in the Dock. It's well worth reading in full.

Lewis is arguing against the so-called Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, which is the belief that "...the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal," as opposed to the traditional belief that a man should be punished because, and to the extent that, he deserves it. Lewis' view is that the Humanitarian theory, by removing from Punishment the concept of Desert, also removes from it the concept of Justice. Without that anchor, the idea of detering or mending inevitably drifts into a view of punishment as therapy. Crime becomes an illness, and criminals become patients requiring treatment. The people who hand down and administer punishments under such a system will be "...technical experts [e.g. psychotherapists and social scientists] whose special sciences do not even employ such categories as rights or justice." These are the omnipotent moral busybodies that Lewis is warning about.

kloeamongtheturks said...

Interesting when you try to apply those ideas to parenting. We punish both for the sake of consequences because kids often break the rules, and to teach moral lessons. I can move seamlessly between robber baron and busybody, even for the same "crime." Not very cupid-like.