The demise of capital punishment in the culture of death and the relationship between pain and punishment.

AuthorFedoryka, Damian P.
PositionP. 562-603
  1. The Analogy of Bodily Pain

    A toothache, a headache, a splinter under the nail, a sprained ankle, a broken bone: each of these has its own specific quality, and each is a kind of pain with its own content. And in each case, it is not the cause which determines the kind of pain experienced, but rather the bodily place or "locus" in which one experiences the pain. In this respect, the physical pain is purely and, we can add, merely subjective. It reflects the subject rather than some object which is its cause. In this sense the purely and merely subjective character of the pain reveals to the subject something about the nature of his being: his tooth, his head, his nail, his ankle, or his bones. In each case, he feels the pain in a definite place or location of his body.

    In contrast, the pain of the innocent in separation from a value reflects the nature of the object from which one is separated. The pain of losing a beloved child is different from that of losing a friend or a neighbor whom one affirmed. The loss of a beloved spouse is in its specific quality and content different from the pain of losing a parent. In all of these cases of a spiritual pain, determined by an intentional relation to the object, it is the object that determines the kind of spiritual pain one suffers. This is the case even though there is also a relation to a spiritual place or "locus" in the person where the pain is felt. It is, indeed, the soul that hurts. Here also there is a revelation of our subjectivity; we learn something about our own spiritual nature. But we learn this only in relation to the object and its specific intrinsic goodness or value. The soul experiences the pain at different depth levels within itself. The specific depth at which one suffers the loss of a beloved spouse is deeper than the one on which one suffers the loss of a dear friend. The same can be said, as Dietrich von Hildebrand pointed out in his early work, Sittlichkeit und Ethische Werterkenntnis, of the whole hierarchy of values to which there corresponds a depth structure of the soul: the higher the value, the deeper is the "place" within the person from which the person relates to the value. (75)

    In the case of the guilty person who goes against a good or value, there is no corresponding spiritual pain. As we have seen, the specific quality of the innocent's suffering at the separation from a value presupposes an affirmation of the good or value. In the case of the guilty person, guilt is constituted precisely by the negation or rejection of the good or value in question. The betrayal or abandonment of a spouse do not, as such, bring as a consequence the kind of suffering that occurs when one is separated from a beloved spouse through no fault of one's own. It is simply not the case that the guilty suffer the same kind of pain as the innocents who are not responsible for the separation from the value. Thus, it cannot be said that the suffering of the damned in Hell is simply the sense of loss of God with no hope of regaining Him. The pain of Hell is not simply a "dark night of the soul" with no hope of seeing the dawn. The qualitative pain of the dark night of the soul intrinsically depends on the continuing affirmation and love of God. But the damned are damned precisely because they rejected God. Their pain is qualitatively different. How, then, are we to understand the pain and suffering of the guilty?

  2. The Specific Pain of the Guilty

    First, we can speak of it on the analogy of physical pain. It is a "place" or "locus" within the soul that suffers. It is true that the spiritual "place" that would have been "filled" in the affirmation of a specific value remains empty when that value is rejected. This is something like a physical hunger in the soul. More appropriately, one could also use the term restlessness. In this respect, it is similar to the spiritual suffering of the innocent. These too suffer because of the inner sense of emptiness or absence of being "touched" and "filled" by a good or value. But this is a formal or external similarity. For the innocent, as noted, affirm the value from which they have been separated. Their experience is not primarily directed at the sense of loss but at the value, which they continue to affirm. Thus, it is the loss of the beloved which is painful. Because of this, it is a different kind of pain than the pain of the guilty. In the latter, it is the loss of satisfaction that determines it to be a different kind of pain.

    We can say that the spiritual direction or orientation is entirely different in each case. In the case of the innocent, the orientation is toward the value. The innocent affirms the value he is separated from, even after the separation. Consequently, the content of his pain directly corresponds to the separation from the value. The very qualitative content of the pain corresponds to the loss and the value in question. In the case of the guilty, the spiritual orientation is away from the value and, indeed, it may even be against the value. Because there is no affirmation of the value, there can be no pain of separation in qualitative correspondence with that specific value. Nevertheless, a real and mysterious affinity exists between the guilty separation from a value and pain as a consequence of that separation, an affinity that is accessible to intuition. It remains to clarify this intuition.

    In the case of the innocent separation from value, the resulting pain is qualitatively determined in its kind by the value. Thus, the pain is of this or that kind because it is a separation from this or that value. The very kind of pain at issue necessarily presupposes a continued affirmation of the value. To the extent one is focused on the value and its affirmation, the intention or motive of the one who suffers is not to avoid the pain. It is this continued affirmative relation to the value that allows the value to specify the kind of pain the innocent suffer when separated from it.

    In the case of the guilty individual, precisely because a value is not affirmed but in fact rejected in its value-content, the value cannot directly determine the kind of pain suffered in the separation. And in the existential situation of this world, the guilty do not suffer the specific pain determined by the value which is rejected. Yet, we can say of the guilty individual that he deserves pain and suffering; not just suffering in general, but a specific kind of suffering that meaningfully corresponds to the kind of violation at issue. We are faced with a basic intuition into that metaphysical law of personal being discovered in the beatifying relation between an objective and intrinsic value and the filling of an inner spiritual space within the person. Objectively there is no "should" or "ought" in the strict sense of the word. The intrinsic value does engender a filling of the soul when the latter affirms and loves it. (76) And a pain necessarily follows the soul's separation from the good, but only to the extent that the good is still affirmed and loved. In contrast, in the case of the guilty--those who separate themselves from a specific intrinsic value or good by going against it--the corresponding pain does not follow on the level of conscious experience. But it should or ought follow. Justice requires that it should. The absence of pain in the subject that rejects the good would contradict the sovereignty of the good. (77) A consequential property of the sovereignty of the good, namely, something that necessarily follows the sovereignty of the good, is its metaphysical capacity to fill, to perfect, or to beatify (78) the subject who gives the affirmation that is due to the good in its sovereignty.

    What specifies this pain and suffering which is intuited as somehow proper and due for the rejection of a good? For the answer one must return to the above-mentioned correlation between a hierarchy of objective values and the inner depth levels in the personal soul. Two things need to be noted. First, the objective value prescribes the place in the inner depth of the person from which the person should relate to the value in question and the depth at which the experience should take place. The relationship to a wife should be deeper than the one with a friend, to say nothing of a drinking buddy. Second, the objective value has a metaphysical capacity of touching and moving the person at a specific depth corresponding to the height of the value in question. Without developing the point, it is enough to say that the value can be beatifying. It can both fill the person and quicken the soul, bringing the soul to life at that specific depth. Here one can use the word "happiness."

    In the case of the guilty who reject a specific value, the corresponding depth dimension is not filled. But something more occurs. The depth level from which the value should be engaged is now the place from which it is negated. It is on that depth level and from it that the negation of the value occurs. Although the subject does not feel the emptiness in the same way that the innocent who may be separated from the same kind of level, there is a profound disturbance at the indicated depth level of the soul. Hidden below the surface, it has all the reality of what Kierkegaard described under the various forms of despair. (79) It is the same thing described as existential anguish or angst by Heidegger, (80) the same reality manifesting itself across the wider spectrum of what was called the lost generation after the sixties. This experience is more properly called suffering than pain. This spiritual pain is grounded not simply in the seeking of satisfaction, but in the profound realization that in seeking satisfaction as one's "ownmost" possibility one is pursuing the impossible. The despairing pursuit of the impossible is compounded by the realization that one has yielded to the desire for satisfaction and lost possession of...

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