Is it OK to sever a man’s spine if his crime caused another man to become paralyzed? I will be honest, I’m not sure. The government has been given the right to punish evil doers. The biblical injunction is “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” Such an injunction–though it has been given a slanderous name and equated with savagery–is an injunction for justice. It would be wrong to sever a man’s spine in response to his breaking his neighbor’s window. Clearly, such a punishment would be way out of whack. But, what if (as in this case) a man takes a cleaver and attacks another man with it, causing that man to become paralyzed. Would it be inherently wrong to make the criminal suffer the same fate?
I will admit, I don’t like the concept, but I am not sure it is inherently wrong. What would be a more fitting punishment? Probably, it would be better to make the guilty party pay all medical expenses plus all the lost wages for the man he so injured. But, even though the practice feels as though it is a brutality, it may not on that basis be unreasonable or unjust. We just don’t like the idea. But we need not limit justice to our preferences. In fact, justice stands outside of our emotions. It is built on equality. I am not convinced that the punishment is unjust. It is unsavory, but not unjust.
On the flipside, I wonder what might be a more fitting punishment for this man. There is a discussion of this case over at SecondHand Smoke. As you will notice, I am not so comfortable with the direction of that discussion. What ought to be done with the man whose cleaver left his neighbor paralyzed?