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Thread: Punishment

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    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    There seems to be such a powerful drive in humans to punish each other. Why is this? It happens when people view those who fall outside their religion or culture, it happens on these boards so often for errors in reasoning, in families, when driving, and in countless other contexts. Sometimes it is a reprimand meant to improve the behavior of another person, but more often it seems to be done gratuitously, almost for personal pleasure, or a way to achieve social dominance. What are the reasons people punish each other? Is the goal often the betterment of the other person, or is it a way to advertise their worthlessness? Or do people engage in it to advertise their 'superiority'? or are they afraid of punishment themselves so they punish others first? I realize all these motivations are present in various contexts, but what is your take on this overwhelmingly present drive in humans?
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    for the good of the human race. the stupid people either have to become un-stupid, or we will lower their self confidence so that they will not want to reproduce anymore, and make more stupid babies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    There seems to be such a powerful drive in humans to punish each other. Why is this? It happens when people view those who fall outside their religion or culture, it happens on these boards so often for errors in reasoning, in families, when driving, and in countless other contexts. Sometimes it is a reprimand meant to improve the behavior of another person, but more often it seems to be done gratuitously, almost for personal pleasure, or a way to achieve social dominance. What are the reasons people punish each other? Is the goal often the betterment of the other person, or is it a way to advertise their worthlessness? Or do people engage in it to advertise their 'superiority'? or are they afraid of punishment themselves so they punish others first? I realize all these motivations are present in various contexts, but what is your take on this overwhelmingly present drive in humans?
    Well, punishment is a way of ensuring that a behavior will not be repeated, albeit not always ethical and effective.

    Most often people dislike in others what they do a very special effort to avoid in themselves. If A tries hard to be intelligent and thinks before he says something, then it's likely that A will dislike others that do not do this. If B writes short posts and makes an effort to be concise, he will likely dislike someone writing long posts. So people will act negatively with others in an attempt to try to "control" their behavior into falling in line with theirs. Some people may pathologically criticize others constantly for this reason, as it reminds them each time how they are better or more "perfect".

    Another reason some people might want to "punish" others is caused by a perception of injustice. If a driver on the road cuts you, and you think that's not fair, you may feel like getting even with him by punishing him back. The problem with this is that people make many attribution errors about the intentions of others. They may infer negative intentions where there were none at all. For example, maybe the guy who cut you just had an argument with his wife and was very stressed.

    It's only in some extreme cases that it's done for free, for the enjoyement of it. I think those kind of people are insecure about their power and feel a sense of empowerment every time they punish. Also, they could harbor a general dislike for people and be misanthropic, and act out of revenge for all the suffering they have been through.

    I think it's better to wait and reward people when they do things right, rather than punishing them when they do something wrong. This is why, IMO, T's don't generally tend to be good small group leaders because they only seem to be able to criticize and don't provide enough positive feedback. Sometimes, though, you have no choice if you're providing feedback in the middle of a process and someone is doing something completely wrong, you have to provide criticism to help them correct what they're doing or else the end result will be completely spoilt.

    How to cope with people who try to control you by punishment? The best way to make sure they won't want to use that method again is by showing them that it's ineffective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    Well, punishment is a way of ensuring that a behavior will not be repeated, albeit not always ethical and effective.
    That's the main goal in an intimate, instructional setting, like with a parent and child or school administration and student. But in the legal system it's more important to create a disincentive for society as a whole than to communicate much on an individual level to the criminal. That's why the view of capital punishment as revenge misses the point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    I think it's better to wait and reward people when they do things right, rather than punishing them when they do something wrong. This is why, IMO, T's don't generally tend to be good small group leaders because they only seem to be able to criticize and don't provide enough positive feedback. Sometimes, though, you have no choice if you're providing feedback in the middle of a process and someone is doing something completely wrong, you have to provide criticism to help them correct what they're doing or else the end result will be completely spoilt.
    Excellent post Maverick. This paragraph brought out to me that there can be a perception of being punished when corrected that may also not be accurate regarding intent. Having been thoroughly conditioned by constructive criticism from many T's in professional contexts, the difference is usually clear to me. Constructive criticism is a show of respect that you believe the individual has the capacity to grow, it is also efficient, precise, and focused on the issue at hand. The punishment approach to criticism tends to have the quality of being an exaggeration, using vague generalizations that don't suggest a method of correcting, they tend to become personal, using conjecture, encouraging others to participate in the condemnation, focus more on social humiliation, etc. The proverbial dunce cap is using punishment in place of constructive criticism. This is a significantly different approach from meeting error with an exact measure of criticism that is to the point and does not attempt to instill humiliation and demoralizing of the individual.
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    A broad generalization of Maverick's comments would be the need for "control" -- because one has been threatened (or had one's security/desires) threatened in some way. Active punishment is an act of aggression meant to dissuade others from performing the behavior again. The two scenarios he brings up are pretty typical social interplay scenarios, where people make assumptions about either "which way is right" or "what the other guy meant to do." So an unexplored judgment is coming into play, driving the punishing behavior, and no real attempt is being made to reach a compromise or find a solution that is agreeable to all parties.

    Booya makes a good point about how social punishment (on the large scale) can't really be equated to an act of "revenge" which is necessarily personal in nature; it is dealing with people as groups (law-abiders vs. criminals) and punishing them by pre-prescribed rules rather than bringing judgment out of nowhere, and the goal is to stabilize society rather than avenge personal wrongs per se.

    In regards to Toonia's post, I think punishment feels instinctively "safer" to people. To punish someone, you have to have and exert control over them (thus, you're in charge). You also do not have to allow any of your own thinking to change -- you are not vulnerable to change, which is a form of death psychologically... letting go of who you are or risking it, in order to accommodate someone else. It's basically a "batten down the hatches, we're going to implement my thinking and desires whether they like it or not."

    It's easier (and more energy efficient in some situations) to punish and try to force others to conform than to work hard to communicate with them, then institute new rules for the relationship that can accommodate both people but might not make everyone entirely happy. Thus, the wielding of power as punishment can be egocentric, a control mechanism to satisfy the id, or whatever. (That seems to be more the punishment that Toonia is describing.)

    And I think a mix can exist as well. For example, the people who party outside prisons when someone is executed, rejoicing that someone is dead. The execution is punitive in a good stable sense -- it is preserving justice and hopefully reinforcing the punishment for murder, and there is value in seeing justice done here, but these people seem to gloat over it, making it more retributive and tied to their desire for control over others and lacking empathy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    but these people seem to gloat over it, making it more retributive and tied to their desire for control over others and lacking empathy.
    So that it becomes only putatively punitive. *snicker*

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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    There seems to be such a powerful drive in humans to punish each other. Why is this? It happens when people view those who fall outside their religion or culture, it happens on these boards so often for errors in reasoning, in families, when driving, and in countless other contexts. Sometimes it is a reprimand meant to improve the behavior of another person, but more often it seems to be done gratuitously, almost for personal pleasure, or a way to achieve social dominance. What are the reasons people punish each other? Is the goal often the betterment of the other person, or is it a way to advertise their worthlessness? Or do people engage in it to advertise their 'superiority'? or are they afraid of punishment themselves so they punish others first? I realize all these motivations are present in various contexts, but what is your take on this overwhelmingly present drive in humans?

    Punishment and search for scapegoat stem from the same root. In many contexts, I'd argue they are immanent within one entity.

    Again, this goes back to our need for self-affirmation. When that proliferates, we will have a larger need for self-affirmation, we not only will wish to regard ourselves as admirable, but we also will need for others to regard us as that. So this is where we get narcissistic. The pinnacle of this would be self-worship, and we clearly see that fiends like Hitler and Mussolini were afflicted by this. (I am bringing them up as representative of the human element on its worst, and I am arguing that all of this stems from our need for self-affirmation which later on leads to punishing others/scapegoating).


    Hence.. the need to punish others stems from this one root: to give self-affirmation... to feel good about yourself not because you've grown... but because someone has been taken below your level...


    From a more practical standpoint... we could say that...punishment is frequently conducted to instantiate order.....

    Tyrants tend to believe that maintaining power is the most important thing and that they can do this by constructing a political hierarchy where their authority is impossible to challenge. Hence, if they have abandoned ideals like 'justice' in favor of preservation of their power.. it occurs to them that they can do whatever they need to in order to stay in power (Machivalli covered this well)...Hence.. while believing that maintaining the system that they've constructed is what they need to do in order to keep their power and that all things are permissible to the end of maintaining the system.. They punish others because they believe that punishing people is an effective way to get them to do what you expect of them. Maverick quite correctly noted that this is not the most ethical or efficient way of doing things...yet again.... in the scenario that I've envisioned... we've tossed the ethical out the window since we are sociopahts... and in that case this would be efficient because your authority is absolute and the wronged will not be able to revolt against you successfully...

    So... this on a larger scale.. exemplifies the utility of punishment..


    On a smaller scale... SJ(and sensors in general.. as they are more likely to do this than Intuitors and I will soon explain why) parents engage in it because they tend to equate moral goodness which good deeds. When they notice that a child does more good when he is punished, they tend to think that they can make him good by punishing him.


    So on the most profound level-the need to give punishment stems from our need to give affirmation to the self.

    On a more practical level-punishment is conducted with a purpose to maintain order...or impose qualities of character... as we know that many parents are under the delusion that they can make their children good by punishing them and our legal system seems to believe that the character of culprits could be enhanced by castigating them... Not exactly the case... the purpose of incarceration should not be to change people... the purpose of it should be no other but to discourage them from doing harm so the community could not be harmed in the same fashion by the same individual again...


    So in the end, I am not saying that punishment has no utility at all, but we just have to be clear about the reasons why we administer it. Law-breakers are to be punished in order to make sure that they no longer have the opportunity to inflict harm on society (they should only be punished if we believe that if they were given the opportunity to harm the society, they would), but we should never act like we are trying to help them grow in character.

    Punishment is a necessary evil, and again, I'd like to stress the word necessary in this scenario, as we should rely on it as little as possible. There usually is a myriad of other methods that we could rectify the situation with.

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    Senior Member Langrenus's Avatar
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    I think you really need to pin this down more, as the purpose of punishment will vary from situation to situation

    The state punishes people to maintain order - punishment is the deterrent that prevents me from murdering someone, etc. The state also arguably punishes people as a form of collective retribution - look at the public outcry over the acts of serial killings, rapists, paedophiles, etc. There is a collective anger and a collective desire for some form of revenge (note by collective I am not suggesting a unanimous desire)

    To a lesser extent the same applies to parents who slap their children for stealing something (although you would really hope this is for deterrent effect rather than retribution)

    And then you have bullies who punish people to elevate their own egos. In fact, punishment is probably an inappropriate word here, as it implies a reaction to an unlawful or otherwise unsavory act. Most bullies will not wait for such an act, or will blow something small out of all proportion to justify doling out 'punishment'.

    Then you have the moral education theory of punishment, which suggests that in punishing someone we're actually helping them to become morally free. Punishment is a tool that helps to reveal to the individual that their actions were wrong - penal time is then time that can be spent on self-reflection. Of course, this assumes there is a moral standard, and this approach still contains an element of retribution (since it doesn't propose that a murderer should be released after a day)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langrenus View Post
    I think you really need to pin this down more, as the purpose of punishment will vary from situation to situation

    The state punishes people to maintain order - punishment is the deterrent that prevents me from murdering someone, etc. The state also arguably punishes people as a form of collective retribution - look at the public outcry over the acts of serial killings, rapists, paedophiles, etc. There is a collective anger and a collective desire for some form of revenge (note by collective I am not suggesting a unanimous desire)

    To a lesser extent the same applies to parents who slap their children for stealing something (although you would really hope this is for deterrent effect rather than retribution)

    And then you have bullies who punish people to elevate their own egos. In fact, punishment is probably an inappropriate word here, as it implies a reaction to an unlawful or otherwise unsavory act. Most bullies will not wait for such an act, or will blow something small out of all proportion to justify doling out 'punishment'.

    Then you have the moral education theory of punishment, which suggests that in punishing someone we're actually helping them to become morally free. Punishment is a tool that helps to reveal to the individual that their actions were wrong - penal time is then time that can be spent on self-reflection. Of course, this assumes there is a moral standard, and this approach still contains an element of retribution (since it doesn't propose that a murderer should be released after a day)


    My argument was that punishment's purpose should be nothing other than instantiating order in society. I understand that people profess to use it for many other purposes, but again, I am saying that this is a mistake. Punishment is unlikely to be successful in any other endeavor than instilling order, as it clearly can not impose positive qualities of character on the punished.

    As far as the reasons for why people punish one another, we have to be clear about what we understand for 'punishment' to be.

    Essentially a bully attacking the weak for seemingly a trivial reason should be thought of as a very different aspect of 'punishment' (if any at all), than a parent punishing a child, or a law-breaker being disciplined by the court-system.

    I do think that it would be beneficial for us to take several steps back and clearly define what punishment is and where all of these other ideas stand in relation to it.
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