It’s snowing again. At least it is warm, only about -12 degrees Celsius. It snowed lightly all night but only about an inch of accumulation. Not worth shoveling.
Disclaimer: This article will probably end up long. It is not a direct product of my own original thought, springing full formed from that well spring I like to think of as my intelligence. Rather, it is the result of reading and cogitating on the work of others and of thinker’s teachings and writer’s integration of these thoughts in their own work in an attempt to understand what I have observed in life to date. This is merely another interpretation, a presentation of ideas and observations freely available to all who seek, my understanding of the congruity of some thought to my observed reality. If I don’t write it out I’ll go nuts with it swirling around in my head. Quite possibly I will change my mind about some of this while I write. Anyway, here goes …
Setting the stage: What do we see around us? Or rather, because I don’t want to assume others see what I do, (see projection further down in this article) what do I see? Over 50 years of observation and questioning clearly show me that without successful effort towards self control and self discipline we are chained by our indulgence in our passions. In the short term these passions blind us to anything outside ourselves. This blindness is encouraged by our culture because the passions keep us enthralled and unable to accomplish anything meaningful outside our own narrow self interest. Nor do we make any kind of a coherent effort to critique or upset the status quo. We “need to be controlled” by our betters “for our own good”. Our “betters” decide what that good is and how we will be subjected to it.
At some level we all know this and we know that we are limited by our passions. But we don’t want to make the effort to change, because we enjoy our sins. So we spend untold effort finding someone else or something else to blame because we know we are culpable but cannot bring ourselves to admit it and accept responsibility for our actions. We suffer from pathological “Poppins Syndrome”. We “know” we are “practically perfect in every way”. In this society we are raised from an early age to believe in our self value with no concomitant requirement to earn “self esteem” by demonstrating self discipline and self control” and positive achievement. In our own mind, we are “born worthy” and are simply here awaiting the worship we “deserve”.
So, we “know” that we are practically perfect and we also “know” that our behaviour is often not good and this results in painful internal conflict. Absent self control, responsibility, and disciplined correction, the only course is denial, and blame of people and factors outside our “self”. We are not guilty … If we are not guilty we don’t have to change because it’s not our fault because we are not guilty …
Culpability (are we truly guilty?): … or being culpable, is a measure of the degree to which an agent, such as a person, can be held morally or legally responsible for action and inaction. Culpability marks the dividing line between moral evil, like murder, for which someone may be held responsible and natural evil, like earthquakes, for which no one can be held responsible.
One formulation of the concept is as follows:
A person is culpable if they cause a negative event and
(1) the act was intentional;
(2) the act and its consequences could have been controlled (i.e., the agent knew the likely consequences, the agent was not coerced, and the agent overcame hurdles to make the event happen); and
(3) the person provided no excuse or justification for the actions.
Culpability descends from the Latin concept of fault (culpa). The concept of culpability is intimately tied up with notions of agency, freedom, and free will. All are commonly held to be necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for culpability.
A person causes a result purposely if the result is his/her goal in doing the action that causes it,
A person causes a result knowingly if he/she knows that the result is virtually certain to occur from the action he/she undertakes,
A person causes a result recklessly if he/she is aware of and disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk of the result occurring from the action, and
A person causes a result negligently if there is a substantial and unjustifiable risk he/she is unaware of but should be aware of.
The first two types of culpability are each a subset of the following. Thus if someone acts purposely, they also act knowingly. If someone acts knowingly, they also act recklessly.
The definitions of specific crimes refer to these degrees to establish the mens rea (mental state) necessary for a person to be guilty of a crime. The stricter the culpability requirements, the harder it is for the prosecution to prove its case.
For instance, the common definition of first degree murder is “A criminal homicide constitutes murder of the first degree when it is committed by an intentional killing.” Thus to be guilty of murder in the first degree, one must have an explicit goal in one’s mind to cause the death of another. On the other hand, reckless endangerment has a much broader requirement: “A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.” Thus to be guilty of this one only needs to be aware of a substantial risk he is putting others in danger of; it does not have to be one’s explicit goal to put people in risk. (But, if one’s goal is to put others in substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, this is, of course, sufficient.)
There is one more type of culpability, and that is strict liability. In strict liability crimes, the actor is responsible no matter what his mental state; if the result occurs, the actor is liable. An example is the felony murder rule: if the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt that one commits a qualifying felony during which death results, one is held strictly liable for murder and the prosecution does not have to prove any of the normal culpability requirements for murder.
Guilty as “sin”.