Crime: Its Cause and Treatment eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 200 pages of information about Crime.

Civilization is a constant building-up of limitations around heredity; a persistent growth of environmental control as it progresses, or at least moves along.  This structure, especially the legal structure, is built by the more intelligent and always by the strong men.  It is always shifting and moving, and it is impossible for the inferior man to adjust his emotions and his life rapidly to the changes.  Things which are not condemned by his feelings of right and wrong are condemned by laws that meet with no response from his emotions and moral ideas.  To him at least these are not different from the things that are done by others with impunity and without rebuke.  Especially is this true of the rapidly growing class of property laws that have had no counterpart in the early history of man.  This list has grown so fast that it is beyond the power of a large class of men to find in their feelings any response to many of these criminal statutes.  The ever-growing social restrictions are of the same modern growth, and it is equally impossible to feel and understand them.  What we call civilization has moved so fast that the structure and instincts of man have not been able to become adjusted to it.  The structure is too cumbersome, too intense, too hard, and if not breaking down of its own weight, it is at least destroying thousands who cannot adjust themselves to its changing demands.  Not only are the effects of this growing body of social and legal restrictions shown directly by their constant violation, generally by the inferior and the poor, but indirectly in their strain on the nervous system; by the irritation and impatience that they generate, and which, under certain conditions cause acts of violence.

VI

PSYCHOLOGY OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT

No one can understand conduct without knowing something of the psychology of human action.  First of all, it must be understood that reason, which so many have idealized and placed in control of the human machine, has little to do with the actions of men.  It is a common habit with most men to find fault with and bewail the fact that human beings do not act from reason.  However much the truth is impressed upon us, we never seem to realize that the basis of action is in instinct and emotion.  It is really useless to quarrel with Nature.  Whether it would have been better to have made man some other way is not worth discussing.  He has been evolved in a certain way and we must take him as he is.  Our impatience with the method that Nature has provided for influencing human conduct is largely due to our idea of the meaning of life.

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Project Gutenberg
Crime: Its Cause and Treatment from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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