Philosophical Issues and Criminological Theory

Philosophical Issues and Criminological Theory -...

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Philosophical Issues and Criminological Theory Before we directly address the various models that attempt to explain the roots of criminal behavior, we must first deal with some even more basic questions. These have to do with the beliefs about human behavior that all of us carry around as part of our everyday commonsense understanding about reality. Among them are beliefs about "human nature" and free will. Our thoughts on these basic questions shape our responses to those who would challenge our understandings and even more importantly often shape the direction of research a social scientist will pursue. Human Nature: There are several components to this issue that need to be discussed. (1) Is there any such thing as an innate universal human nature ? Some would say yes, because we as human beings do share a common biological heritage. However, if we accept such a presupposition, another problem immediately ensues: (2) What is the content of human nature? There is no agreement on this point. Some would say that human beings are naturally predisposed toward the "dark side", that evil and even violent behavior are part of our legacy as humans. A religious argument has often been made, particularly among religious fundamentalists, that we are all born with the taint of original sin and thus predisposed toward evil. Another version takes a more sociobiological approach, claiming that we are still much closer to other animal species than we would like to think. Aggressive defense of territory and violent means to obtain food, water, etc. typify many animal species. How could millions of years of evolutionary development mysteriously disappear? Haven't war and violence been an unchangeable aspects of the history of the human race? G. Gordon Liddy , the former Watergate conspirator, says as much every time he appears on TV or lectures at a college. That a universally acquired human nature may pre-equip people to do good seems to be a minority position, but such a starting position is accepted in some cultures. Anthropologists have pointed out that such beliefs arise most frequently in groups that depend greatly on mutual co-operation for survival, such as hunting and gathering societies. For example, among the Tasaday of the Philippines there are no words in their language to express such feeling or actions as hate, fighting, violence, etc. Are these phenomena unknown among them? The Tasaday assumed their view of human nature was universal. In the Western tradition positive views of human nature are less common, but not unthinkable. If each infant were born with a spark of the divine as the Genesis account infers, wouldn't that be a potential for good? Some theologians have argued that to be the case. For example, the 19th Century Protestant theologian Horace Bushnell in his book Christian Nurture pointed out that older Calvinist ideas of human depravity were no longer adequate. The potential for good existed in all of us. Unfortunately that potential was often extinguished before it had the chance to reach moral maturity.
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This note was uploaded on 11/27/2011 for the course CCJ 5606 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at FSU.

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Philosophical Issues and Criminological Theory -...

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