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On Crimes and Punishments and Other Writings

On Crimes and Punishments and Other Writings

Edited by Aaron Thomas
Aaron Thomas
Jeremy Parzen
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    On Crimes and Punishments and Other Writings
    Book Description:

    Long appreciated as a foundational text in criminology, Beccaria?s arguments have become central in debates over capital punishment. This new edition presents Beccaria?sOn Crimes and Punishmentsas an important and influential work of Enlightenment political theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8654-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Aaron Thomas
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Bryan A. Stevenson

    Each of us is more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done. No one is just the crime she or he commits, the lie he tells, the mistake, accident, or misjudgment she makes. The modern human rights movement is rooted in the basic notion that every person must be afforded some measure of dignity and worth. When we fail to recognize the dignity of any human being, we risk the humanity of us all. The lowest of the low, the wretched, the despised and rejected, the condemned and reviled – none can be excluded from the ‘moral arc of...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xxxii)
  6. Introduction: Between Law and Politics – The Idea of Equality in On Crimes and Punishments
    (pp. xxxiii-lii)

    The history of critical interpretation of Beccaria’s masterpiece has been marked by no small amount of irony – at least until 1958, when Franco Venturi’s critical edition of the text prompted a change in direction in Beccaria studies – for it has been read primarily, if not exclusively, as a classic text ofgarantismoin criminal law, a theory that attributes great importance to the legal and civil guarantees of individuals.¹ This perspective seemed plausible, given the principal polemical targets ofOn Crimes and Punishments(in particular, the practice of torture, the death penalty, and the arbitrariness of the courts²)...

  7. PART ONE On Crimes and Punishments
    (pp. 1-86)

    Some remnants of the laws of an ancient conquering people, compiled on the orders of a prince ruling in Constantinople twelve centuries ago,² later mixed with Langobardic customs and bound together in the sprawling volumes of private and obscure interpreters – this is what forms the tradition of opinions that in a large part of Europe goes under the rubric of law. It is as deplorable as it is common that an opinion of Carpzov,³ an ancient practice mentioned by Claro,⁴ or a torture suggested with wrathful righteousness by Farinacci⁵ should constitute today the laws so confidently applied by those...

  8. PART II Contemporary Reactions to On Crimes and Punishments

    • From Notes and Observations on the Book Entitled ‘On Crimes and Punishments’ (1765)
      (pp. 89-101)

      The Roman legislators did not use torture to extract a confession from the criminal because they had not yet felt the need for such a usage; because they were unable to examine this matter as they should have; and because the revolutions of their republic almost never left their state entirely peaceful, nor did they reduce the different classes and conditions of persons to a fixed system that would allow the examination and establishment of the best method to proceed criminally. And, indeed, their method was most imperfect in every aspect and was implemented most irregularly, as we know from...

    • From Response to a Writing Entitled ‘Notes and Observations on the Book “On Crimes and Punishments”’ (1765)
      (pp. 102-112)

      It is not a truly new or unexpected evil in Europe for men of letters to receive swiftly the most flattering acclaim of the public or the criticisms of some writer or another; nor can any of this be surprising to an author who has devoted a considerable amount of time to the important understanding of the human spirit. Nor still is it strange that even the most groundless accusations against an author be cloaked in the sacred mantle of religion – a religion that he carries in his heart, honours in his writings, and professes in his actions. We...

    • Commentary on the Book On Crimes and Punishments, by a Provincial Lawyer (1766)
      (pp. 113-150)

      I was engrossed by a reading ofOn Crimes and Punishments, a short book that in matters of morality can be compared to what in medicine are the few remedies by which our sufferings can be alleviated. I fancied that such a work might soften the barbarities that linger in the jurisprudence of so many nations. I was still hoping for some reform to occur in the human race when I learned that an attractive and shapely eighteen-year-old girl, who possessed useful talents and belonged to a very respectable family, had just been hanged in one of the provinces.


  9. PART III Revisiting the Death Penalty

    • Opinion of the Undersigned Members of the Committee Charged with the Reform of the Criminal System in Austrian Lombardy for Matters Pertaining to Capital Punishment (1792)
      (pp. 153-160)

      The Criminal Committee, while drafting the Prolegomena to the new penal code that will be submitted to the approval of the sovereign, and which is based upon the precepts contained in § III of the Royal Dispatch of 13 August 1790, was obliged to list the number and the ranking of diverse punishments that will be prescribed by this code so as to assign them to diverse crimes with the correct proportion, and in doing so followed the praiseworthy example of the Austrian and Tuscan codes that the above-mentioned dispatch mentioned as a possible model.

      From the outset, the extraordinarily...

  10. Note on the Texts
    (pp. 161-162)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 163-180)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-184)
  13. Index
    (pp. 185-190)