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Natural Law

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The "classical school" (so-called because the divergent ideas of many scholars with similar ideas during this epoch were called that by history) was a social movement that existed during the late 1700s and the early 1800s. The "classical" part of it is derived from the similarity in thinking between those scholars and early Greek philosophy (Aristotle, Plato, etc.) which also put forth the importance of free will. However, "free will" is NOT the only defining feature of something that is "classical", and in fact, there is a "neoclassical school" that is based on the idea of character (as a compromise between free will and determinism) and a rational choice school of thought which has similar but not the essential features of "classical," Rational choice is the idea that there are many more complex decision making variables in the reasoning process of offenders than the simple free will - deterrence model makes out.

Classical criminology originated the concept of deterrence, although they didn't call it that at the time. The concept of rationally preventing crime by punishment (what they meant by deterrence at the time) was considered a great humanitarian reform, superior in many ways to cruel and unusual medieval torture practices that existed. It is best understood against the backdrop of what history calls the Enlightenment. This broader movement (encompassing rationalism, naturalism, and humanitarianism) was the pinnacle of naturalism's rejection of all things spiritual, all things divine (such as divine right of kings, or in criminology, all explanations along the lines of the-devil-made-me-do-it).

Some of the defining features of the classical school in criminology include:

Ð'* All people are guided by free will

Ð'* All behavior is guided by hedonism (pleasure/pain calculation)

Ð'* All crime is the result of free will and hedonism

Ð'* All punishment should fit the offense (equal treatment under law)

Ð'* Bad people are nothing more that the result of bad laws

The leading figure of the classical school was CESARE BECCARIA (1738-1794). One could almost say he was the leader. He pretty much synthesized the ideas of Montesquieu (branches of government), Helvetius (learning theories), Voltaire (justice theories), Bacon (naturalism, anti-spiritualism), Rousseau (social contract), Diderot (encyclopedic knowledge), and Hume (epistemology of proof). BECCARIA in 1767 wrote the book called On Crimes and Punishment which made the following arguments:

Ð'* The social contractual basis of society (if you violate someone else's liberties, you violate the social contract by which we all live)

Ð'* The criminal law should have a restricted scope (it shouldn't try to legislate morality, for instance, although others, like Bentham, thought so)

Ð'* People should be presumed innocent until proven guilty (no torture)

Ð'* The law should be codified (written) with punishments prescribed in advance

Ð'* Punishment should be limited (less harsher) to only that necessary to deter people from ever committing it again (no capital punishment)

Ð'* Punishment should be severe, certain, and swift (of these, severity is the least important, certainty the next

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