Aristotle and releasing killers from jail

The incident of Susan Atkins, part of the Manson murders, and Olmert’s decision to release Kuntar (along with 4 other enemies of humanity) in exchange for the dead bodies of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, is a disturbing trend in human affairs. Here is my response to the Susan Atkins incident.

Since what I spoke of came partially from Aristotle, I’ll let him carry the torch further.

* The young have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things—and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning…. All their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything; they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else. (II.1389a31)

In our society, with the focus on eternal youth and on how much wiser the “children” are, it is not too surprising that this kind of behavior is much more present here than it ever was in Ancient Athens.

Men … are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody’s friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause—the wickedness of human nature. (II.1263b15)

Human nature has been the same ever since the dawn of humanity. And if you aren’t convinced, then realize that this piece was written many thousands of years ago, even if it was translated relatively recently.

# Any one can get angry — that is easy — or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy.

Helen likes to say that equality is the goal. Not as easy as she makes it out to be, for the very virtue of “equality” isn’t even equally distributed amongst the population.

Last time I checked, not even God could redistribute virtues from the virtuous to the sinful that need them.

* Different men seek after happiness in different ways and by different means, and so make for themselves different modes of life and forms of government.

* Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.

Equality should not mean “you have one path in life and one path to happiness and this is it”. To die with dignity is not to be provided with comforts and honors, like release from prison, from others.

* Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.

Which supports my contention that jokes exploit an underlying perception of an unspoken truth. Most other people would say that you are spoiling things by analyzing jokes and looking deep. I say that they are superficial in matters of philosophy and life.

Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.

Tony Snow

Wicked men obey from fear; good men, from love.

Concerning why citizens obey laws in a democratic republic as opposed to the People’s Republic of North Korea.

The corollary is also that wicked men force others to obey from fear as well.

Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.


The greatest crimes are not those committed for the sake of necessity but those committed for the sake of superfluity. One does not become a tyrant to avoid exposure to the cold.

Meaning, basic security and liberty are not the goals which promote extreme actions. The greatest crimes are committed for the “greater good”. That of equality, fraternity, utopia, or what not. Master Race and all that. Islamic Caliphate and all that.

Something that is not necessary to the human condition, that is what inspires real evil and crime.

* After these matters we ought perhaps next to discuss pleasure. For it is thought to be most intimately connected with our human nature, which is the reason why in educating the young we steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain; it is thought, too, that to enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on virtue of character. For these things extend right through life, with a weight and power of their own in respect both to virtue and to the happy life, since men choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful; and such things, it will be thought, we should least of all omit to discuss, especially since they admit of much dispute. (X.1172a17)

* And happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace. (X.1177b4)

This was the particular section of the Nicomachean Ethics, precursor to Aristotle’s Virtue Theory (an Ethical theory) that demands that virtuous men and women hate what they ought to hate and love what they ought to love. Not in excess or by whim or even by law, but according to virtue.

I do not source my ethics from the Bible or any other Revealed Truth text. Which is why it doesn’t take much attribution or textual citations for me to justify saying that you should not love a murderer of innocents.

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One Comment on “Aristotle and releasing killers from jail”

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