Just like you in your recent post I have also been trying to square up
Pirsig's take on capital punishment with the whole McVeigh situation.
I found this....
"When a society is not itself threatened, as in the execution of individual
criminals, the issue becomes more complex. In the case of treason or
insurrection or war a criminal's threat to a society can be very real. But
if an established social structure is not seriously threatened by a
criminal, then an evolutionary morality would argue that there is no
moral justification for killing him."
I'm not quite sure what Pirsig means here when he talks of a criminal
threatening the established social structure.... the line conjures images of
Lex Luthor and a host of James Bond Bad-Guys bent on world domination....
Are these the "criminals" who threaten the established social structure....
I can't believe Pirsig meant something so cartoonish. McVeigh's crimes could
easily be characterized as treason or insurrection... yet, he would need a
MUCH bigger bomb before he could really threaten out established culture...
Or maybe Pirsig was just talking about TYPES of criminals. As if to say, we
are justfied in executing individual "traitors" because "treachery" in
general poses a threat to any social pattern.
Come to think of it... it's very difficult to think of real life
examples that would qualify for Pirsig's one exemption to his apparent
rejection of capital punishment (the President hands over all our missle
codes to the Chinese???---would that be worthy of an execution???).
Perhaps this means that MoQ sees it as virtually impossible to have a
> I probably lean more on the "pro" side of capital punishment, but, like
> abortion issue, the "squeamish" side of these things causes me to distance
> myself from a position of conviction. I'm not sure if I fully comprehend
> Pirsig's anti-capital punishment stance, and the pending execution of Tim
> McVeigh is an example. As I recall Pirsig doesn't use serial killers,
> murderers, etc., as examples of the criminal element. There is the brujo
> is a peeping tom, and the "hip" criminals of the 60s, Black Panther-types
> other activists. Are we to explain McVeigh's actions as a "dynamic"
> And is it out of the realm of reality that 150 years from now we are
> in a convoluted society that remembers McViegh the way that John Brown
> Pirsig alludes to) is remembered? Marco mentioned that a few years ago
> Italy was praying for a "miracle" that the US would not execute an Italian
> living in this country. It seems to me that the only thing worthy of
> status in this instance would have been the resurrection of the murder
> victim. Like Marco, I'm not interested in a pro vs. con discussion - I'm
> not totally clear about Pirsig's message. If I had to guess, he is a firm
> believer in the sanctity of life, regardless of any immoral actions, and
> sanctity extends to the womb. But could one not make the case that the
> "social" level is absolutely moral in extinguishing the "biological" in
> cases of courts decreeing the execution of murderers?
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