Volition, deception, and the evolution of justice.

J. O. Beahrs,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 19(1): 81-93, 1991.
Criminal justice is inextricably associated with the attributive concept of volition. Although the voluntary-involuntary distinction is subjectively vivid, causal research shows its poles to be inseparable, i.e., the dichotomy is deceptive. Why a bulwark of civilization should be founded on paradox, may be clarified by examining the role of self-deception in man's evolutionary heritage. Natural selection for an optimal degree of self-deception probably occurred, both to facilitate deception of others and to foster human cooperation. This contributed to the evolution of psychiatric disorders, the voluntary-involuntary continuum, and large scale social systems. Society and its members reach an equilibrium within the truth-deception continuum, manifest in individuals by conscious versus unconscious and voluntary versus involuntary, and in society by tension between what actually occurs (realism) and its organizing ideals (idealism). Three legal models of criminal justice are understood in this context: The (1) utilitarian, most realistic, is essential to social survival but vulnerable to abuse; (2) rehabilitative, at an opposite idealistic pole, better supports the image of social beneficence that helps to bind society's members; (3) retributive, most heavily grounded in volition, puts greater emphasis on individual autonomy, and reciprocally modulates the other models. All are legitimized by evolutionary traditions that antedate homo sapiens, and none is sufficient in itself. Elements of all three models necessarily coexist within any existing society, their relative strength varying with its collective values, prosperity, and perceived safety. [References: 54]