Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crime, Punishment, and the Great Community

How should we treat criminals?  "The reply is: Treat them as if you loved them." 

-- Charles S. Peirce, 4 May, 1892

Peirce's Parable of the Puritan

Peirce once wrote a school-essay responding to a prompt that asked whether there was any valid excuse for the intolerance of the "Pilgrim Fathers." (MS 1633)  Peirce replied with a parable, which I will paraphrase here:

On judgment day, a Puritan was called before God to give account of his life. The Puritan admitted his faults, and then pulled from his breast pocket a document that he claimed contained a justification of "hard-heartedness." When he handed this to God, someone laughed aloud at the possibility of making such a justification. The scoffer was seized by angels and taken to kneel before God, where "he will be told by the Judge that He considered it worthwhile to see what the Puritan had to say. But that he the scoffer as he judged shall be judged."