Classical School of Criminology: Definitions of some terminology

Topics: Crime, Death Penalty, Penology Pages: 5 (2124 words) Published: April 18, 2014
Classical School of Criminology:
Definitions of some terminology
The Classical School of Criminology emerged during the period of Enlightenment and was to become an important role player in the scientific study of Criminology. The Classical School of thought offered the first naturalistic explanation of crime and basic ideas about crime and a criminal justice system were developed. (Bezuidenhoud, 2013, p. 126) The Classical school and its proponents left a legacy which can be seen in the Constitutions of many countries (including South Africa) and form the basis and foundation of many laws and Criminological theories. Here following is a discussion on three (3) of the concepts (Hedonism, Death Penalty and Deterrence) as introduced by the Classical School but with particular attention paid to how these concepts form a part of modern day Criminology and how the current concepts can be improved upon in South African Law.

1. Hedonism
2. Social Contract
3. Law
4. Deterrence
5. Due process of law
6. Death Penalty

The concept of Hedonism is grounded in several scientific fields of study. In Psychology the definition for Hedonism is given as: “the theory that conduct and especially all human behaviour are fundamentally motivated by the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain”. (Hedonism. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11th Ed.)

Jeremy Bentham in his book Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) defines Hedonism as “A doctrine with the central tenet that the achievement of pleasure or happiness is the main goal of life. (Bentham, Jeremy, (1988), Chap 5)

The word ‘hedonism’ comes from the ancient Greek for ‘pleasure’. Psychological or motivational hedonism claims that only pleasure or pain motivates us. Ethical or evaluative hedonism claims that only pleasure has worth or value and only pain or displeasure has disvalue or the opposite of worth. Jeremy Bentham asserted both psychological and ethical hedonism with the first two sentences of his book An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation: “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain, and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do”. Debate about hedonism was a 1|Page

feature too of many centuries before Bentham, and this has also continued after him. (Bentham, Jeremy, (1988), Chap 1)

In layman’s terms Hedonism implies that every human has the inborn desire and compulsion to weigh pleasure and pain up against each other and ultimately choose to go for the pleasure option. Therefore laws should be formulated in such a way that, bearing in mind the innate desires for pleasure, man will be curtailed by ”pain”. Any person should be able to weigh the pleasure to be gained by an illegal act against the punishment (pain) decreed by law and subsequently to decide against the act. (Philips, A.R., (2014), Slide 19)

In modern-day South Africa nothing seems to have changed. It is merely the forms of pleasure and pain that have evolved due to the technological changes since the 18th century. The search for pleasure has become more powerful with all citizens; society in general and government aiming at gaining “pleasure” sometimes at any cost. The ordinary citizen sees the level of luxury of the “haves” and will consider anything to be able to experience the same level of pleasure. Furthermore, certain promises were made 20 years ago when the country moved from apartheid to democracy. Although huge strides have been made there has been a definite widening of the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Simplistically crime has evolved into the one sector of the poor turning them to crime to achieve a level of survival (those who have experienced no or very little improvement in their lives) while another sector is driven to crime purely by greed. The desire for fast, easy money through crimes such as drugs...

Bibliography: Associated Press, (December 15, 2011), Is this the most ghoulish tourist attraction in the world?
Gallows where 3500 were hanged declared a national, monument in South Africa, Daily Mail.
Bentham, Jeremy, (1988), The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Amherst: Prometheus Books.
Bezuidenhoud, C, Ed., (2013), A Southern African Perspective on Fundamental Criminology, Cape
Town, Heineman
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Carlitz, A., (2013), Theoretical foundation of Sentencing, Bloemfontein
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