Perhaps this is just punishment for those who have been heartless, to understand only when nothing can be undone.
Let the punishments of criminals be useful. A hanged man is good for nothing, and a man condemned to public works still serves the country, and is a living lesson.
We don’t punish people because they are evil, but because they make bad choices, choices that are bad for the herd. Morality isn’t heaven-sent or eternal, just a set of rules that benefit the herd.
There’s too much tendency to attribute to God the evils that man does of his own free will. I might concede you the Devil. God doesn’t really need to punish us, Miss Barton. We’re so very busy punishing ourselves.
The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.
The man who is being punished is no longer he who has done the deed. He is always the scapegoat.[Der gestraft wird, ist nicht mehr Der, welcher die That gethan hat. Er ist immer der Sündenbock.]
The fact that society has become strong and sure of itself diminishes the external importance of the injury and so leads to a mitigation of its punishment.
Our measure of rewards and punishments is most partial and incomplete, absurdly inadequate, utterly worldly, and we wish to continue it into the next world. Into that next and awful world we strive to pursue men, and send after them our impotent party verdicts of condemnation or acquittal. We set up our paltry little rods to measure Heaven immeasurable.