The Rationale of Punishment

Book IV

Proper Seat of Punishment

Section IX


As to the cause of the abuse thus made of punishment, it lies not very deep below the surface. It lies partly in the strength of the self-regarding, and dissocial passions, partly in the weakness of the intellectual faculties on the part of legislators, and of Judges acting in the place of legislators.

It lies more particularly in the strength of the dissocial passions, and in that one of the false principles, rivals to the principle of utility, viz. in the principle of sympathy and antipathy, in the production of which the dissocial affections, influenced and swollen to that pitch in which they assume the name of passion, have so large a share.

Urged on by the dissocial passion of antipathy, misguided by the principle of sympathy and antipathy, men in power have punished, because they hated: taking as a sufficient warrant for the infliction of the sufferings which they proposed to themselves to inflict, the existence of that hatred, of which, as towards the person in question, in consideration of the act in question, the existence was demonstrated to them by their own feelings.

That which was the cause, became naturally the measure of what was done: punishing, because of his hate, it was, to the man with the strong hand, matter of course to punish in proportion to his hate.

A lot of punishment, in which so much suffering, and no more, would fall upon the innocent, as consistently with the application of punishment to the guilty, was unavoidable, sufficed not for the gratification of his hate: of that satisfaction which consists in his contemplation of another's suffering, he would have as much more as was to be had and frequently there was scarce a price, so as it was at the expense of others only that that price was made up, and not any part at his expense---there was scarce a price at which he was not content to purchase it.

[RP, Book IV, §8] [RP, Book V, Chapter I]