We have largely forgotten the art of public disputation, the ability to discuss divergent points of view with due regard to the accepted proprieties of debate. We should welcome the free and frank interchange of opinion, for it is only by such discussion and debate that we can hope to arrive at an informed judgment. For this reason a recent debate (conducted in the best academic tradition) between Professor C. S. Lewis and Professor Norval Morris is to be welcomed. The debate gains an added interest from the fact that it took place in an Australian setting. It began over an article in the Australian legal journal, Res Judicate, by C. S. Lewis on “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment.” (At the end of the article C. S. Lewis writes: “You may ask why I send this to an Australian periodical. The reason is simple and perhaps worth recording: I can get no hearing for it in England.”)
The subject at issue was the nature of crime and punishment. Is crime to be regarded as sickness or as sin? This basic question determines our concept of punishment. If crime is the result of disease the remedy is psychiatry; if crime is the result of deliberate lawlessness the remedy is punishment. Lewis is concerned lest we surrender ourselves to the “conditioners” and “straighteners” on the specious ground that those who transgress are only sick.
It is obvious that this raises questions of the most far-reaching consequence. Whether crime is judged to be the result of mental sickness or the manifestation of an evil heart will determine to a great degree the treatment of the criminal. People are not always aware of the implications of each position to the criminal and to society. Therefore it will be useful to summarize the arguments at this point. ...1
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