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  • C. A. Mercier

This is the third or fourth time that I have been the occasion of bringing the subject of Punishment before your notice, and my justification for treating of it again is that I am given to understand you are not yet—all of you—of my opinion. On the first occasion I had but one adherent, but that one, Sir William Gairdner, was in himself a host. On the last occasion a good many voices were raised in my favour, and to-day I hope we shall be unanimous. You will remember that the first time I brought the subject forward, it was in connection with the thesis that every lunatic is not necessarily to be considered exempt from punishment; that most lunatics ought properly to be punished for some of their wrongdoings; and that the practice in every asylum is to punish lunatics upon occasion. To this it was objected that although the fact was admitted that we do pursue towards lunatics the same course of conduct that is called punishment when applied to sane people, yet, when applied to lunatics, it is not punishment, because we dare not call it punishment. This led me to a disquisition upon the nature of punishment, in which I arrived at the conclusion that punishment is the painful consequence of conduct; and to this conclusion I still adhere, but subsequent meditation has shown me that although it is the truth, it is not the whole truth, but that there is another aspect of punishment of equal importance. Moreover, I think that the chief reason of the disagreement between my critics and myself was that, while I looked at one side of the shield and maintained that it was black, which it was, they were looking at the other side and maintained that it was white, which it may have been—in parts. In other words, I was looking upon punishment from the point of view of the punishee, which some of you, at any rate Dr. Noott, will consider was the proper point of view for me to take; while others regarded it from the point of view of the punisher.

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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  • C. A. Mercier
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