Clarence Darrow Philosophy

Having read about Clarence Darrow’s defense of Leopold and Loeb on p. 132-134 in your text, do you agree with the arguments he presented, for instance, that “they were no more responsible for their crime…than they were for the color of their eyes (p. 132)”? Do you agree with the sentence that Leopold and Loeb were given? Why or why not? If you were responsible for handing down their sentence, what punishment would you have given Leopold and Loeb? Why? Do you agree with the hard determinist that our choices are the inevitable result of causes beyond our control? Your assignment is to write an original response, at least 300 words, to these questions.

(The Philosophical Journey, An Interactive Approach, Sixth Edition, By: Lawed)

PAGES 132-134

P. 132

Remember that both the hard determinist and the defender of free will (the libertarian) are incompatibilists because they agree with the statement that if we are determined, then we lack the freedom necessary to be morally responsible. They would also both agree with the statement that if we are not determined, then we do have the freedom necessary to be morally responsible. For both the hard determinist and the libertarian, metaphysical free- dom is a necessary condition for moral responsibility. Even if we have circumstantial free- dom when we act (e.g., no one is holding a gun to our head), if our will is not free of determining causes, then we can no more be held responsible for our actions than we can for the genes we have inherited. Of course, the hard determinist and the libertarian differ over the first clause of each statement, so they differ in their conclusions concerning our capacity to be morally responsible. Although the hard determinists recognize that we do make choices, they believe these choices result from our personality, values, interests, desires, or motives, which are ultimately the products of deterministic causes. For this reason, moral responsibility, according to the hard determinist, is not a human possibility.

A good example of the hard determinists’ denial of moral responsibility can be found in the courtroom strategies of Clarence Darrow (1857–1938), one of America’s most famous criminal attorneys. In a celebrated case, Darrow defended two teenagers for murdering a 14-year-old boy. The confessed killers were Nathan Leopold Jr. (age 19) and Richard Loeb (age 18). Both came from wealthy Chicago families and were brilliant students; Leopold had already graduated from the University of Chicago and Loeb from the University of Michigan. The murder was the result of an intellectual “experiment” in which they attempted to commit the perfect crime. When they were captured, an outraged public demanded the death penalty. However, Clarence Darrow argued that the two boys were the helpless victims of their heredity and environment. Hence, they were no more responsible for their crime, he said, than they were for the color of their eyes. After Darrow had spoken for 12 hours presenting his final arguments, the silence of the courtroom was broken only by the judge’s weeping. The jury was moved by his arguments and chose life sentences for the boys over the death penalty. The following passage is an excerpt from Darrow’s sum- mation. Find the phrases that indicate that Darrow was not only a determinist, but a hard determinist as well.

P.133

FROM CLARENCE DARROW The Leopold and Loeb Trial 35

This weary old world goes on, begetting, with birth and with living and with death; and all of it is blind from the beginning to the end. I do not know what it was that made these boys do this mad act, but I do know there is a reason for it. I know that they did not beget themselves. I know that any one of an infinite number of causes reaching back to the beginning might be working out in these boy’s minds, whom you are asked to hang in malice and in hatred and injustice. . . .

Nature is strong and she is pitiless. She works in her own mysterious way, and we are her victims. We have not much to do with it ourselves. Nature takes this job in hand, and we play our parts. In the words of Omar Khayyam, we are only:

But helpless pieces in the game He playsUpon this checkerboard of nights and days; Hither and thither moves and checks, and slays, And one by one back in the closet lays.

What had this boy to do with it? He was not his own father; he was not his own mother; he was not his own grandparents. All of this was handed to him. He did not sur- round himself with governesses and wealth. He did not make himself. And yet he is to be compelled to pay. . . .

I know that one of two things happened to Richard Loeb: that this terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and came from some ancestor; or that it came through his edu- cation and his training after he was born. . . .

To believe that any boy is responsible for himself or his early training is an absurdity that no lawyer or judge should be guilty of today. Somewhere this came to the boy. If his failing came from his heredity, I do not know where or how. None of us are bred perfect and pure; and the color of our hair, the color of our eyes, our stature, the weight and fineness of our brain, and everything about us could, with full knowledge, be traced with absolute certainty to somewhere. . . .

If it did not come that way, then I know that if he was normal, if he had been understood, if he had been trained as he should have been it would not have happened. . . .

Every effort to protect society is an effort toward training the youth to keep the path. Every bit of training in the world proves it, and it likewise proves that it sometimes fails. I know that if this boy had been understood and properly trained—properly for him— and the training that he got might have been the very best for someone; but if it had been the proper training for him he would not be in this courtroom today with the noose above his head. If there is responsibility anywhere, it is back of him; somewhere in the infinite number of his ancestors, or in his surroundings, or in both. And I submit, Your Honor, that under every principle of natural justice, under every principle of con- science, of right, and of law, he should not be made responsible for the acts of someone else.

What are the practical consequences of such a view? Should we release all the criminals from jail, since they were not morally responsible for their crimes any more than they were for their eye color? Darrow’s position was that we should cure the ills in society that cause criminal behavior. Most hard determinists claim that the criminal is someone with a psy- chological problem who should be treated the way we treat someone who has a physical disease. We confine someone with an infectious disease to prevent harm to others even though the patient may not have done anything to contract the disease. Furthermore, we would try to cure the patient so that he or she no longer carries the infection.

As Butler’s satirical piece suggests, the fact that you are a law-abiding citizen and others are criminals is the result of differences between your background and those of criminals, just as there are differences between a person who came from a healthy home and one who came from a disease-ridden home. How many social psychopaths came from normal, lov- ing homes? Hence, the hard determinist would say that to protect society, it is reasonable to confine criminals if they cannot help but commit crimes. The unpleasant consequences of crime will be determining causes that will help prevent future crimes. While removed from society, the criminal can receive therapy or behavior modification that will change the psychological state that resulted in the criminal act in the first place. What the hard deter- minist would not agree to is punishment for punishment’s sake or punishment that assumes the criminal had the freedom to do otherwise than he or she did.

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