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elbanditoroso's avatar

Would you consider the ancient (even biblical) tradition of Lex Talionois as a negative or a positve law?

Asked by elbanditoroso (32077points) 2 months ago

Lex Talionis is most often described as the “law of revenge” – usually at the same level you were wronged. So if a fighter caused you to lose your left arm. Lex Talionis meant thata you could get vengeance by taking the assailant’s left arm.

In my reading, Lex Talionis generally is described as a bad thing – equivalent revenge.

Could it be seen as a positive? Think about Hillel’s “Do Unto Others as they have Done Unto You” – which is generally seen as a model for good behavior and comity.

Where do you think Lex Talionis falls? A positive action or a negative action?

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12 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

As attributed to Gandhi: An Eye for an Eye Will Make the Whole World Blind.

The problem with encouraging vengeance it is that it is not a healing exercise.

I would therefore argue that it is a negative action.

rebbel's avatar

“Do not to your neighbor what you don’t want to happen to you” is my favored motto.
If we’d all keep to that there’s no need to cut off arms are pierce eyes.

Strauss's avatar

Any time we look at actions from the past, we run the risk of judging those actions through the lens of current sensibilities. Ftom my understanding, the phrase ”...an eye for an eye…” was commonly interpreted as ”...(the value of) an eye for an eye.” This was true not only for the Hebrews, but was a common concept at the time. The Book of Exodus, the Code of Hammurabi, the earlier Code of Lipit–Ishtar, as well as contemporaneous Palestinian and Roman and other ancient societies all had some sort of retributive laws of this nature.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I agree with @Strauss, and find it a positive legal recourse.
If the criminal act causes a loss, justice demands equal compensation to make whole the victim.

ragingloli's avatar

Depends.
For example, in a society, where the default response to someone insulting you, is slaughtering them and their entire family, then “eye for an eye” could be seen positively, as a limiter on the extent of the revenge.
In the current world however, where the response to that is incarceration and rehabilitation of the offender, it is a negative, as it encourages the further inflicting of unnecessary violence and suffering to satiate a thirst for vengeance.

LostInParadise's avatar

Hillel did not say, Do unto others as they have done unto you. What he said was the Golden Rule, only stated in the negative: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you There is a pretty big difference.

Hammurabi’s eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is seen as a major breakthrough, since it limited the punishment for a crime. You could not have an eye for a fingernail.

Retribution is still a part of our justice system, along with deterrence, incapacitation, restoration and rehabilitation. Link I see no need for retribution. There is no social gain from retribution. The other four objectives suffice.

ragingloli's avatar

To add, if someone causes property damage, then of course they should, as they are able to do, reimburse them inancially, to undo the damage they have done.
However, cutting off their arm, because they cut off yours, is not the same, as you are not getting your arm back that way.

Zaku's avatar

I think it depends on the specifics. As written here, I’m not satisfied with it, but there are quite a few cases I can think of where I’d approve of even greater punishment than the specific crime, particularly in cases where the perpetrator has a pattern of behavior that needs to be stopped (which isn’t about retribution, but stopping ongoing harm).

For example, I’d abolish the government of Brazil for their destruction of the Amazon rainforest and genocide of indigenous peoples, and also for their hopeless state of corruption, and permanently imprison the murderers and politicians responsible.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Zaku I’d agree when it comes to pedo’s and traffickers.

Pandora's avatar

Can you say there is such a thing as equal revenge? Let’s take your arm idea. I value my body parts and so if my arm was cut off, I may feel it’s not enough to cut off their arm. They may not value their left arm the way I do. I may feel my revenge isn’t complete unless I cut off his penis if its a guy or clitoris if its a female. I want them to forever not have any kind or sexual satisfaction. To always desire something they know will never be the same. What if they killed my daughter? Do I kill someone they love? Killing them really doesn’t mean much because their suffering is brief and mine would be for the rest of my life. My point is there is no such thing as equal pain. Tit for tat. So nothing really gets resolved through revenge. So I would have to say its a bad idea. It just makes the victim just as evil as the perpetrators. Once a major harm is done, there is no undoing it. Jail is the best you can wish for and hope they don’t come out worse than they were.

Smashley's avatar

They had a few good intentions back then, but fuck were they stupid. It’s a good idea for a legal system if you dont give a shit about appeals, retrails or accidentally slaughtering the innocent. The advocates for this kind of cruelty pretend like wrongful convictions didn’t exist. If they’re 2% now, they were probably 10%+ back then.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Smashley well, we’re talking about a system that had it’s rise in ancient days, and practiced by civilizations 2000+ years ago, so appeals, retrials and such didn’t have much place.

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