full version Dialog Between Beccaria, Lombroso, And Durkheim Essay

Dialog Between Beccaria, Lombroso, And Durkheim

Category: Philosophy

Autor: jessica85 14 May 2010

Words: 2233 | Pages: 9

Dialog between Beccaria, Lombroso, and Durkheim.

Durkheim: - Good Afternoon Lombroso. How are you?

Lombroso: - Fabulous. I’ve just been reading your theories in The Normal and the Pathological (Durkheim, 1895).

Durkheim: - You disagree?

Lombroso: - Maybe on some points.

Durkheim: - Our other guest has arrived. Beccaria, how are you my learned friend?

Beccaria: - Very well, Durkheim.

Durkheim: - You know Lombroso, don’t you?

Beccaria: - I’ve read your work: the Criminal Man (Lombroso, 1911). You have a fascinating view-point on criminality.

Lombroso: - I supposed I should be pleased, this coming from someone so highly respected as you? Are you planning a follow up from On Crimes and Punishments? (Beccaria, 1761)

Beccaria: - All in good time, my friend.

Durkheim: - Ok Gentlemen, lets not get too carried away. The reason that I called you here today is to discuss the latest Salvation Army robbery.

Beccaria: - Heavens knows what those boys were thinking when they chose to break into that store (Beccaria, 1761:277).

Lombroso: - How can an educated man chalk up their actions to free will? There are biological factors that dictate why these boys commit crimes. We can not expect anything more from atavistic re-offenders? (Lombroso, 1911:xxv) There is no hope for these young men now.

Durkheim: - Atavistic re-offenders, how have you arrived at that conclusion? There is nothing to suggest that these young men had anything to do with the other break-ins. Isn’t prejudging them a dangerous thing to do?

Beccaria: - I’ll say. Why don’t we leave it up to the judge to ascertain guilt and they can face the punishments they ought to rightfully receive for what they have done to society (Beccaria, 1761:278).

Lombroso: - Here comes the moral conscience. (Gould, 1981:140) “In order to deal with the evil effects of [their] wrong doing…” (Lombroso, 1911:xxii) it is as necessary with the criminal as it is “the insane, to make the patient the object of attention,” (Lombroso, 1911:xxiii) and not, as I’m sure you will disagree my learned Beccaria, the resulting punishments.

Beccaria: - You are right Dear Lombroso, I do disagree. These boys have already engaged in this criminal behaviour, yes by free will, I do believe (Beccaria, 1761:277). There is nothing that will stop it from happening again unless we concentrate on how to deter this defective behaviour. (Beccaria, 1761:278-284).

Durkheim: - I beg one major point of difference to you, Beccaria. Crime is not defective. It is normal, it appears in every society from mechanical to an organic form (Durkheim, 1895:84). And furthermore, crime implies “… that the way remains open for necessary [social] change” (Durkheim, 1895:87). I deem it necessary to examine the wider context of society, rather than just the punishments, or the individuals themselves.

Beccaria: - I accept your difference of opinion, and in fact welcome it. If we all thought the same thing about these boys alleged crimes, I’m sure we would have nothing to talk about. I would like to ask Lombroso, to explain why he thinks of them as atavists re-offenders?

Lombroso: - In my search for the cause of criminal behaviour, I have found three classes of criminals. 1. Born, 2. Insane, 3. Criminaloids. (Vold et all, 2002:27) It is clear that these boys fall into the first category of criminals.

Durkheim: - But how did you arrive at this conclusion?

Lombroso: - What tells me such– “normal man or man without stigmata perform criminal acts by force of circumstance. Man with stigmata performs them by innate nature”. (Gould, 1981:132)

Beccaria: - Lombroso that still does not tell us how you reached your conclusion.

Lombroso: -. What situation could possibly drive three teenage boys to break in to, rob, and destroy a Salvation Army store? A store that supply’s the needy. I can not think of one legitimate reason. Therefore, it is my assertion that there is no force of circumstances, but rather these boys acted by innate nature. (Gould, 1981:132)

Durkheim: - This very well may be true. But you need to acknowledge that you’re basing your reasoning upon a principle that might not even be true in the first place.

Lombroso: - Of course it’s true. I assure you, if I saw these boys they would resemble apish creatures; displaying anomalies of: head height and width, degree of receding forehead, differences in head circumference, head symmetry, jaws, cheekbones, fingers, toes, and more. (Lombroso, 1911:xxv)

Beccaria: - So you are basing your argument on both physiognomy and phrenology? (Vold et all, 2002:32)

Lombroso: - Partly, yes.

Durkheim: - What is the other part, dare I ask?

Lombroso: - Common sense of course! I have shown that “children up to a certain age… manifested the saddest tendencies of the criminal man …the germs of delinquency and criminality are found normally even in the first periods of human life.” (Lombroso, 1895:53) Not to mention, the similar break-in’s to other Salvation Army stores.

Beccaria: This may only explain why these boys may be criminals but not why they are born criminals.

Durkheim: - There is no evidence to say that these young lads had anything to do with those other robberies.

Lombroso: - For there to be two groups of people targeting stores that endeavour to serve the community is a bit of a stretch. The likelihood is that it is the same group of boys that have committed similar crimes in the vicinity. All this leads to my belief that they are born criminals.

Beccaria: - So you say.
Lombroso: - Well of course! I wouldn’t be able to tell you for certain unless I physically examined them. I have clearly shown that those who engage in criminal behaviour and have stigmata are born criminals. (Lombroso, 1911:xxv) And the genius of my theory is that if they do not have stigmata then it is clear that they are in fact criminaloids. (Gould, 1981:132)

Durkheim: - That is an interesting perspective Lombroso. I am hesitant to say this, I mean no disrespect, but maybe looking at the criminal himself is not the only way of understanding crime. Maybe looking at the criminal’s rearing could lead to another explanation for criminal behaviours. (Durkheim, 1895:85)

Lombroso: - It is still my belief that if you want to understand the crime then study the criminal!!! (Lombroso, 1911: xxii)

Beccaria: - Duly noted. Carry on Durkheim. Explain your theory to us.

Durkheim: - I too think it necessary, to examine the penalties relating to these young boys. I propose that I explain my theory of criminality first and then we can all discuss punishment. (Durkheim, 1895:85)

Lombroso: - Fine by me.

Beccaria: - Sounds great.
Durkheim: - Crime as we define it is present in all societies. (Durkheim, 1895:84) It is my contention that as a society passes “from lower to higher types, rates of criminality… tend to decline”. (Durkheim, 1895:85)

Lombroso: - Just to ensure that I’m following; can you define what you consider crime? Is what these boys have done a crime?

Durkheim: - Crime, to me, “consist of an act that offends very strong collective sentiments”. (Durkheim, 1895:85) I believe that the boys may have offended the strongest sentiments. They have allegedly robbed a store that provides goods and services to hundreds of people in desperate need. The simple act of robbery and vandalism is compounded, by whom the victim is.

Beccaria: - How then does crime influence social change, as you have claimed?

Durkheim: - “In silencing all consciousness – it will transform certain of them from simple moral faults… and give them the quality of crimes”. (Durkheim, 1895:86) Behaviours that are considered in bad taste can, through the process of social change, become crimes; punishable by criminal sanctions and not just socially frowned upon. (Durkheim, 1895:86)

Lombroso: - That explains how crimes change, but how do crimes make society change?

Durkheim: -
“Crime [as stated[ is necessary. It is bound up with the fundamental conditions of all social life …it is useful because these conditions of which it is a part are themselves indispensable to the normal evolution of morality and law.” (Durkheim,1895:87)

Beccaria: - I feel a discussion on punishment is now warranted. Will capital punishment be an acceptable punishment for these boys?

Lombroso: - It is not to be discounted.

Beccaria: - It is my belief that capital punishment fails to deter determined criminals. A stable example over long periods of time will be more effective in creating moral habits, than is a single shocking example of an execution. (Anonymous: archived at http://www.iep.utm.edu/b/baccaria.htm)

Lombroso: - Of course it fails to deter them; they are dead!

Durkheim: - I do not think that it was intended to be that far simplified.

Beccaria: - Of course it was not. Thank you, good lad!

Lombroso: - Even so, will the immoral habits be extinguished? Surely they will, as those who engage in the behaviours will all be dead.

Beccaria: - Condemning one man to death will not resolve the issue of crime. The others left standing will not interpret this threat as quickly following the crime. The two complementary ideas of crime and punishment will not be as securely associated in a persons mind. (Beccaria, 1767:283) Therefore, if the ultimate goal is to extinguish the immoral behaviour, deterrence through punishment is the only way.

Durkheim: -A society without any criminality is not possible.

Lombroso: - I agree that crime appears to be a natural phenomenon (Lombroso, 1887:667), but we are going around in circles. Let us not forget our question – what is the best option for our young offenders?

Beccaria: - Ok. Can we agree that the ultimate goal for utilitarian societies would be to minimise the occurrence of criminal behaviour? (Beccaria, 1767:278 – Hegel’s utilitarian right of punishment)

Durkheim: - I guess to minimise that behaviour would be a fundamental goal.

Lombroso: - Fine. I would still rather focus on why they committed the crimes, but we’ll do it your way. (Lombroso, 1911:xxii)

Beccaria: - The best way to deter criminals, in particular our young lads, is allow others to see them punished fairly and promptly by the sovereign. (Beccaria, 1767:282-283)

Lombroso: - I agree that capital punishment is not the best way to deal with the born criminal. Internal deportation is a very real possibility. (Gould, 1981:140)
Durkheim: - What, permanent, irrevocable deportation? And let’s not forget the malaria. There must be a better way! (Ferri, 1891:249)

Beccaria: - Surety of sentences. Let a judge decide guilt. Relying on clear cut legislation, that matches severity of punishments with the cost suffered to society from the occurrence of the crime, these boys should be accordingly punished. (Beccaria, 1767:278)

Lombroso: - What do you consider accordingly punished?

Beccaria: - The proportion must be equal between crime and punishment. (Beccaria, 1767:284)

Lombroso: - Well that’s as clear as mud.

Durkheim: - Lombroso! Beccaria, can you please explain your ideal punishment for these boys?

Beccaria: - “A scale of disorder is distinguishable, the first grade consisting of those that are immediately destructive of society.” (Beccaria, 1767:284) Given that the next grade involves impacts that are not destructive of society, it is my belief that the punishment needed falls closer along the scale towards the first grade.

Durkheim: - Can you explain why you think this particular crime falls close to the first grade?

Beccaria: - The impact to society is greater considering who these young men robbed, when compared to private citizens. For these boys to choose to engage in this behaviour at Christmas time, a particularly hard time for familles, it’s very destructive to society in general and to those people involved. It is my contention that these boys should be subject to a fair and open process, started as soon as possible, with posited legislation and no cruel and inhuman treatment by the state.

Lombroso: - Well that all seems nice and dandy, but an indeterminate sentence seems to be the best utilitarian approach, as you your self are advocating. (Lombroso, 1911:124)

Beccaria: - The greatest good for the greatest number must be making the punishment just over the amount of pleasure that the individual receives from the deviant acts. Any punishment that goes over this amount would be considered unjust, and having an indefinite sentence falls above this threshold.

Lombroso: - Well I hate to say that I disagree…

Durkheim: - No you don’t Dear Lombroso, you love it. But I think that we should leave it there for today, and maybe we can continue our discussion on this issue another day. I thank you dearly, for engaging with me in such a lively debate.


Beccaria, Cesare (orig. 1767; reprint 1994) Selection from On Crimes and Punishments. Reprinted in Joseph E. Jacoby (ed.) Classics of Criminology. Prospect Hills, IL: Waveland Press, pp 277-286

Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria (modified 11 April 2008) Archived at: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beccaria

Durkheim, Emile (orig. 1895; reprint 1994) selection from The Rules of the Sociological Method. Reprinted in Joseph E. Jacoby (ed.) Classics of Criminology. Prospect Hills, IL: Waveland Press, pp 84-88.

Durkheim, Emile (modified 12 April 2008) Archived at: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durkheim

Gould, Stephen Jay (1981) selection from The Mismeasure of Man. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, pp.122-124

Lombroso, Cesare (1911) Introduction to Criminal Man, reworked by Gina Lombroso-Ferrero. Reprinted 1972. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith, pp. xxi-xxx.

Lombroso, Cesare (modified 8 April 2008) Archived at Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesare_Lombroso

Unknown Cesare Beccaria, Archived at Constitutional Society http://www.constitution.org/cb/beccaria_bio.htm

Unknown (2006) Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), Archived at: The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/b/beccaria.htm

Vold, George B., Thomas J. Bernard, and Jeffrey B. Snipes (2002) Theoretical Criminology, 5th edition. New York: Oxford University Press.