Saturday, March 19, 2005

He blinked

Professor Volokh says it in print: he changed his mind.

Mark Kleiman's post, which has persuaded me to change my views on the advisability of deliberately painful executions also has an excellent discussion of retribution as a goal of punishment.

Mark Kleiman responds...

Note that this is no mere factual correction; anyone might be forced to engage in one, though the real Masters of the Web retract as seldom, and as grudgingly, as possible. This is an actual admission by a blogger that he is not infallible.

Such an admission undercuts the entire purpose of blogging, which is the competitive expression of unchangeable opinion accompanied by personal abuse. Without the unchangeable opinion, the personal abuse would be pointless; what value is there in questioning your opponents' intelligence, morals, and sanity based on their opinions if you admit that your own opinions are not unvarying parts of your inmost self, but mere possessions, which you can change as easily as you change your clothing? If a blogger "concedes error," as Volokh admittedly has done, what won't he concede?

I, too, was wrong in my own cynical attitude:

The cocooning phenomenon sets in when there are a host of opinions in a discussion, too many to be read and digested. All one does is comb through, looking to reinforce already-held ideas, rather than seeking new understandings.

We did that.

I like that in this case I was wrong. It's an inverted expression of my tagline about being an optimist.

I also like that these two important men can find the words to be gentlemen in their discussion. Klieman's response was something akin to grace.

And Dr. Volokh was plain-speaking enough to say that arguments (such as mine) against atavism were not pursuasive. I can respect that. I understand that followed to their logical conclusion, arguments against punishments, capital or otherwise, cannot allow for this human weakness. To do so would legally eviscerate the whole idea of punishment.
I got it.

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