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173

Reflections on the Guillotine

2
terms
5
notes

a great essay arguing against capital punishment, primarily because of the harsh and irreversible distinction it draws between the guilty and the innocent--a distinction that none of us is really qualified to make

Camus, A. (1995). Reflections on the Guillotine. In Camus, A. Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays. Vintage, pp. 173-236

(adjective) having an insipid often unpleasant taste / (adjective) sickly or puerilely sentimental

178

it would be just as unfair to attribute my conviction to mere mawkishness

—p.178 by Albert Camus
uncertain
3 years, 4 months ago

it would be just as unfair to attribute my conviction to mere mawkishness

—p.178 by Albert Camus
uncertain
3 years, 4 months ago

(noun) excessive or ostentatious pride especially in one's achievements / (noun) vain display or show; vanity

195

the hideous vainglory they excite in certain criminals

—p.195 by Albert Camus
confirm
3 years, 4 months ago

the hideous vainglory they excite in certain criminals

—p.195 by Albert Camus
confirm
3 years, 4 months ago
199

[...] Many laws consider a premeditated crime more serious than a crime of pure violence. But what then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? [...]

hint: he's against the death penalty

also just realised that "capital" originally meant "head" (via Old French from Latin capitalis, from caput 'head') which explains the terms "capital punishment" and "decapitation" and even "capital city"; for "capital" as in "capitalism", it comes from heads of cattle (and other animals) being the original proto-currency

—p.199 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago

[...] Many laws consider a premeditated crime more serious than a crime of pure violence. But what then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? [...]

hint: he's against the death penalty

also just realised that "capital" originally meant "head" (via Old French from Latin capitalis, from caput 'head') which explains the terms "capital punishment" and "decapitation" and even "capital city"; for "capital" as in "capitalism", it comes from heads of cattle (and other animals) being the original proto-currency

—p.199 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago
206

To cut short this question of the law of retaliation, we must note that even in its primitive form it can operate only between two individuals of whom one is absolutely innocent and the other absolutely guilty. The victim, to be sure, is innocent. But can the society that is supposed to represent the victim lay claim to innocence? Is it not responsible, at least in part, for the crime it punishes so severely? [...] every society has the criminals it deserves. [...] we already have our schools of crime, which differ from our federal prisons in this notable regard: it is possible to leave them at any hour of the day or night; they are the taverns and slums, the glory of our Republic.

he also goes into the culpability of alcohol and the fact that its production is subsidized by the government

—p.206 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago

To cut short this question of the law of retaliation, we must note that even in its primitive form it can operate only between two individuals of whom one is absolutely innocent and the other absolutely guilty. The victim, to be sure, is innocent. But can the society that is supposed to represent the victim lay claim to innocence? Is it not responsible, at least in part, for the crime it punishes so severely? [...] every society has the criminals it deserves. [...] we already have our schools of crime, which differ from our federal prisons in this notable regard: it is possible to leave them at any hour of the day or night; they are the taverns and slums, the glory of our Republic.

he also goes into the culpability of alcohol and the fact that its production is subsidized by the government

—p.206 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago
210

[...] The number of bad or morbid predispositions our antecedents have been able to transmit to us is, thus, incalculable. We come into the world laden wih the weight of an infinite necessity. [...] there never exists any total responsibility, or, consequently, any absolute punishment or reward. No one can be rewarded completely, not even the winners of Nobel Prizes. But no one should be punished absolutely if he is thought guilty, and certainly not if there is a chance of his being innocent. The death penalty, which really neither provides an example nor assures distributive justice, simply usurps an exorbitant privilege by claiming to punish an always relative culpability by a definitive and irreparable punishment.

—p.210 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago

[...] The number of bad or morbid predispositions our antecedents have been able to transmit to us is, thus, incalculable. We come into the world laden wih the weight of an infinite necessity. [...] there never exists any total responsibility, or, consequently, any absolute punishment or reward. No one can be rewarded completely, not even the winners of Nobel Prizes. But no one should be punished absolutely if he is thought guilty, and certainly not if there is a chance of his being innocent. The death penalty, which really neither provides an example nor assures distributive justice, simply usurps an exorbitant privilege by claiming to punish an always relative culpability by a definitive and irreparable punishment.

—p.210 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago
214

[...] Tomorrow another expert testimony will declare the innocence of some Abbott or other. But Abbott will be dead, scientifically dead, and the science that claims to prove innocence as well as guilt has not yet reached the point of resuscitating those it kills.

—p.214 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago

[...] Tomorrow another expert testimony will declare the innocence of some Abbott or other. But Abbott will be dead, scientifically dead, and the science that claims to prove innocence as well as guilt has not yet reached the point of resuscitating those it kills.

—p.214 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago
222

[...] But precisely because he is not absolutely good, no one among us can pose as an absolute judge and pronounce the definitive elimination of the worst among the guilty, because no one of us can lay claim to absolute innocence. Capital judgment upsets the only indisputable human solidarity--our solidarity against death--and it can be legitimized only by a truth or a principle that is superior to man.

it's a really long essay and he's definitely preaching to the choir here but his writing is, as always, v good

(the principle he is referring to here is religious in nature)

—p.222 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago

[...] But precisely because he is not absolutely good, no one among us can pose as an absolute judge and pronounce the definitive elimination of the worst among the guilty, because no one of us can lay claim to absolute innocence. Capital judgment upsets the only indisputable human solidarity--our solidarity against death--and it can be legitimized only by a truth or a principle that is superior to man.

it's a really long essay and he's definitely preaching to the choir here but his writing is, as always, v good

(the principle he is referring to here is religious in nature)

—p.222 by Albert Camus 3 years, 4 months ago