Society and Prisons: Some Suggestions for a New Penology

Society and Prisons: Some Suggestions for a New Penology

Society and Prisons: Some Suggestions for a New Penology

Society and Prisons: Some Suggestions for a New Penology

Excerpt

In a discussion of any sort it is well to make sure that the principal terms employed are clearly understood by every one concerned.

It is not necessary in argument [writes Gilbert Chesterton] to settle what a word means or ought to mean. But it is necessary in every argument to settle what we propose to mean by the word. So long as our opponent understands what is the thing of which we are talking, it does not matter to the argument whether the word is or is not the one he would have chosen. . . . So long as we know what a given word is to mean in a given discussion, it does not even matter if it means something else in some other and quite distinct discussion. We have a perfect right to say that the width of a window comes to four feet, even if we instantly and cheerfully change the subject to the larger mammals and say that an elephant has four feet. The identity of the words does not matter, because there is no doubt at all about the meanings; nobody is likely to think of an elephant as four feet long, or of a window as having tusks and a curly trunk.

In a discussion of penology it is especially desirable that there should be no misunderstanding of terms; for not only has a really scientific, first-hand study of many important elements of the subject been sadly lacking, but we are met at every turn by those treacherous half-truths . . .

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