Monthly Archives: May 2017

Retributive Punishment is Consistent with the Logic of Moral Thinking

Physical or mental pain for human beings is a bad thing. This is the way IT IS. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. This not the way IT OUGHT TO BE.

There are logical rules for thinking correctly about what ought to be done and what ought to be. These rules are called “deontic logic.” In this post I propose some fundamental rules of deontic logic which are so fundamental that they can be called axioms. In particular, I bring out that retributive punishment is in principle justified by axioms of deontic logic. Retributive punishment is inflicting mental or physical pain on human beings simply for violating a moral law. This infliction of pain is warranted regardless of any production or protection of human happiness brought about by such infliction of pain. Because retributive punishment is in principle justified by deontic logic it cannot be dismissed as a primitive way of moral thinking or based on amoral feelings of vengeance. In this defense of the rationality of retributive punishment I am arguing against views on punishment I previously held

The judgment that an immoral act ought to have bad consequences is as fundamental in moral thinking as a judgment that an act violates a moral law. Indeed the two moral judgments ” This act is wrong” and “This act ought to have bad consequences” are made together. This proposal is significantly different from the utilitarian outlook which proposes that if an act has bad consequences, then it is an immoral act. My proposed axiom states: if an act is immoral, then it OUGHT to have bad consequences. I propose further that the judgment that an immoral act ought to have bad consequences entails a further moral judgment that something ought to be done to bring about the bad consequences for an immoral act. This comes from a deontic logic axiom that something ought to be done to bring about what ought to be. What is entailed by axioms of logic alone is also a rule or principle of logic. So we have as a deontic logic principle the RETRIBUTIVE PRINCIPLE:

Something ought to be done to bring about the bad consequences for an immoral act.

All that is needed for the retributive principle to become activated in moral thinking are some moral rules such as: Do not kill! Do not steal! Do not lie! Do not commit adultery! Besides the rules there needs to be recognition of a violation of a rule. This first violation could be thought of as an “original sin.” With recognition of an original sin moral thought contains the judgment that something ought to inflict pain on human beings for violations of moral rules.

Here I will not pursue theological speculations about original sin. Here I want to emphasize that the moral rules such as Do not Kill! are not principles of deontic logic. Deontic logic gives for reasoning about moral rules and from moral rules. Moral rules need to be justify by rational thinking. But deontic logic is not sufficient to justify moral rules. However, the retributive principle is sufficient to show that retributive punishment is logically consistent in moral thinking. In fact I think that the retributive principle can be used to define punishment explicitly as: the bad consequences for human beings which ought to be brought about for violation of a moral rule.

In effect, “retributive punishment” is a redundancy. Punishment is retribution.

Of course, to use the retributive principle in reasoning about punishment many questions need to be answered. Some of the obvious questions are: What should the punishment be? Who should inflict the punishment? On whom should the punishment be inflicted? These questions reveal that the logic of moral reasoning leaves open the question on whom should the punishment be inflicted just as the logic of moral thinking leaves open the question of the degree of punishment. I am suggesting that the notion of another person suffering the punishment than the person who performed the immoral act is consistent with the logic of moral thinking. Much more could be written about applying the retributive principle. For instance, I have left open whether there is something like mercy which can eliminate or lessen the bad consequences.

But enough has been written so that I can continue with my project of writing blog posts to show that the notion of Satan is consistent with deontic logic. Look for more posts on the topic.
See There is a Satan in Opposition to God.

Introduction of the retributive principle is developing the notion of moral harm which I used in my book. In my book I did not clearly enough link moral harm with natural harms
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.

To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.


A Catholic Man Confronts a Rainbow Flag

A Catholic Stand Against a Rainbow Flag

Our enemy is advancing. Our enemies are not the poor souls he has pressed into his service. In Ephesians 6, Paul warned that our battle is against demonic powers. Our enemy’s bright cheery banners are flying from more and more houses in our neighborhoods. His rainbow flags demand surrender of all our Catholic notions of sexual purity. His dominance of the media persuades so many of us silently to surrender without resistance. He has broken through our defensive wall built from bricks of traditions. He has not yet won. Bishop Olmsted challenges Catholic men to rush into the breach *. How can we resist? Pray always. Think clearly and speak directly when occasions present themselves. But save your strength. Use prudence about when to fight.
Imagine an occasion presented by one of those ubiquitous rainbow flags. A man and a boy are cleaning up a yard on a March day.
“Dad what do those dudes do?” Thirty seven year old Richard is raking leaves with his eleven year old son Frank. Frank points to the house across the street flying a rainbow flag. Frank adds: “The mail carrier told me that Ron and Jay just got married.” “Isn’t that weird?” he mutters.

Richard thinks “Frankie’s got me. I’m stuck, I can’t tell him to go ask his mother. I need the guts to speak straight and tell Frankie that homosexual acts are always immoral. Yet I have to put it in such a way that I give him no justification for ever harassing gay guys. How? I haven’t really talked with him about sex yet!”

Richard answers: “Yeh, I think that it is weird too. No matter what judges decide real marriage is for a man and a woman to form a family. You know how babies get started, don’t you?”

“Sure, sure we learned all that stuff in life sciences,” replies his son.

With relief Richard continues: “Good, that’s the place to learn about the basics of sex. A lot of it is natural science. Still there is much more to learn about loving and controlling ourselves to have kids the way God wants us to. And we have to start talking about all the horrible rapes and murders we hear about on the news every night. I’m sorry, though, I didn’t talk with you about sex basics before.”

“No, no”Frank quickly replies. ” I don’t want to think of mom and you when I think about the science stuff. I’d rather learn it in class or just talking with other guys.”

“So, you kids talk about sex:” Richard comments.

“Naturally” Frank answers.

Richard plunges into the serious discussion: “Well, then, you guys have talked about masturbating or jerking off. Do you guys use that word?”

“Maybe: “Frank mumbles with embarrassment.

Richard chuckles: “Frankie, you lied. You got an idea of what those dudes do.”

Frank responds: “Why does everybody think that the stuff they do and just jerking off is bad? It doesn’t hurt anybody.”

“Now I have to teach. Can I keep his attention?” Richard worries.

He begins: “Masturbation is really bad. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it is. It’s the phantasy world where all the horrible sinful things men do with sex can flash through your head. You’ve heard the gospel where Jesus said that a man who commits adultery in his heart has already committed it. Well, all those dirty thoughts guys have in their heads; they, in a way, are actually doing. While masturbating a guy is just a few thoughts away from doing the worst sex crimes in the world. And thoughts travel faster than light. ”

“Oh, oh, I’ve gotten too heavy” Richard senses.

“Any of the guys you hang out with talk about porn? I’ve worked it out so that you can’t get much, if any, on our phones or computers.”

“Some, maybe, get some pretty hot stuff” Frank volunteers. “But I don’t and some of the stuff they show me makes me feel, I don’t know, dirty or sexy, I guess.”

“Does it make you feel like playing with yourself?”

“ Yeh. Is that wrong?”

“Yes. Well, it is not wrong to feel like that. But it is wrong to do a man’s part of baby making just for that crazy feeling. A man is supposed to control wanting that feeling so that he gets it only when making babies with his wife. It’s hard being a man.”

“Is jerking off wrong?”

“It sure is. That’s what I have been saying. Masturbating is wrong for every man and a sin for Catholics because we believe that God wants us to use sex as we ought. The church gives us a lot of help to do that. You’ll stop looking at porn and thinking of sex to avoid confessing each week that you’ve been playing with yourself.”

To get the conversation away from himself, Frank asks about their gay neighbors. “Do you think that Ron and Jay are sinful?”

“Of course, what they do to get that special sexual feeling is a sin. But it is not just against a rule of our religion. It’s against a rule for all men. It’s immoral. Doing those thing with another guy would be wrong for me even if I weren’t married. Those kind of things would be wrong for you. Men are not supposed to play with each other that way.”

“Are Ron and Jay are bad people?”

“I didn’t say that. Their house is well kept up. They pick up after their dog better than some people on our street. They’re good neighbors.
Jay’s a fast runner. I met him running on the bike path a couple of weeks ago. I found out that he is an IT guy figuring out how to handle huge masses of data. But his pace was too much for me. I dropped back after about two miles.”

“Dad, you’re not answering my question.”

“Frankie, you’re old enough to know that doing some bad things doesn’t make you a bad person. Bad people regularly mess up other people’s lives in serious ways. However, doing some bad things stops you from being a good man: the kind of man you ought to be. Jay is not the kind of man he ought to be.”

“Did you tell him that?”

“No. It’s none of my business to talk to him about that. I’m not related to Jay in any way which might give me a right to even ask about his sexual acts. I wish that he had not told us by putting up that stupid rainbow flag and advertising that weird gay marriage.”

“Are you afraid to tell people what you think is right?” Frank taunts his father.

“No” his father comes back. “I would tell Jay if he asked. I’d tell anybody who asked. I’m telling you now that what those guys do is something no man ought to do and it is something to be ashamed of. Anyway, Ron and Jay already know anything that I would tell them.”

“Shouldn’t you try to make them better?” Frank continues his challenge.

Richard gets an insight on a way to move the conversation to bullying.

“Making other people better can be an excuse for doing mean and cruel things to other people. You have to know a lot about how to help people. You have to know what you have a right to do to other people before doing things you think are making other people better. The one sure thing you can do to help other people be better is to be a good example and never saying what you do not think is true if you are asked. Having the attitude that you can make others better can make you a bad person.”

“What? Wanting to make things better is making things bad.” Frank almost shouts.

“Yes, it can. I ‘m serious. It works like this. Usually bad people do something different from what is normally done. So it is their difference you want to change or punish to make them better. Even though I don’t think that it is OK, let’s say that it might be OK to be angry at the difference from normal that makes a person bad and try to do something about it. Well, one thing you will learn is that it is easy to think stupidly.”

“I already know lots of people are stupid.”

“An easy way to be stupid is to think that because what makes a person bad is being different simply being different makes a person bad. Being different from normal is confused with being bad. Still, people think, or at least feel that stupid way. That stupid way of thinking is what leads to bullying.”

“I’m not a bully” Frank protests.

“I believe you, of course. But you or your friends could become bullies; especially about being gay. Lots of guys feel that a kid acting in those different ways they think are girlish means he is gay. Those guys pick on that kid and maybe feel justified because they feel he is somehow wrong. They certainly could be wrong about his being gay. But they are absolutely wrong about picking on him. If he is gay, the poor kid is going to suffer a lot through his life. It’s terrible to have those temptations to have sex with other guys. It’s wrong to make their lives more miserable by picking on them.”
“If it is so terrible couldn’t we help him stop being gay” Frank interrupts.

“No, you can’t. Besides men are not gay or straight. We are all simply men who have all sorts of temptations to do what is wrong with our bodies. But we know what is right and have to work hard to do only that. The work is easier if you try not to think too much about sex.
Here, hold this yard bag open while I shove in this insert. We’ve talked enough about sex today. It’s good we started, though. We’ve got much to talk about as you go through school. Meanwhile, pray for them. And don’t even think of what those dudes do.”


A skirmish has been fought. One rainbow flag waves less victoriously. A father has taken a Catholic stand. A father and son have begun to fight back.

* Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ 2015

Readers my be interested in my book on sexual morality.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.

To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.