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Classical Criminology and Human Nature
Classical criminology, and its recent expression in rational choice theory, does not cut slack in terms of excusing, or otherwise mitigating, counterproductive and maladaptive social behaviors. An essential component is the assertion you are responsible and accountable for your actions. No matter how much you blame others, abuse substances, claim “victimization” or invoke the nebulous notions of alleged “mental illness”, classicists remain unmoved. From this historic school of thought, as well as its variations, the primary philosophical notion is that people are always responsible for their behaviors, especially when they choose to do harm to others.
From the arrogant greed of corporate criminal conspiracies, to the assassination of a public official, the perpetrator is self-motived, intentional and premeditated. The rationality of choice means purposeful decision-making, especially if you are a terrorist, or others like those in the news media and politicians, who seek to mitigate that by claims you have somehow mysteriously become “radicalized”. Criminality and human behavior in general, regardless of the criminal typology, from street crimes to commercial fraud, involve decisive “cost-benefit” analyses. The basis is gain minus the risk.
Motivational factors are complex and reside within the intricate thinking processes of the individual personality. While an act of particular cruelty may seem “irrational” to the public, such terroristic action is very rational to the instigator. Yet, in the reactivity of emotional self-interests as to “why” he or she committed the horrific crime, speculation devolves to dangerous notions for a simplistic answer. There are no easy answers.
Particularly frustrating are those quick to embrace an alternative “school of thought” within the schemes of the pseudosciences where one answer fits all. Other philosophical perspectives like psychology and sociology are good examples. From their own ranks of adherents, there are no specific concurrences on cause-effect explanations.
In a court of law in the U.S., where actual definitive evidence is required, both sides compete as to who has the most believable reason regarding behavioral issues. Outside a legal framework, many apply less than provable assertions about the causative factors involved in the nature of criminality. More so today, with increasing acceptance of paranormal phenomenon, many pursue external deterministic concepts.
From within the framework of those aligned to a classical criminological perspective, everyone, no matter who they are, remains answerable for every aspect of his or her behavior. Regardless of socio-economic status, political “aristocracy”, or corporate “oligarchy”, the primary societal parameter is that no one is above the law. Yet, the gross arrogance of a gluttonous culture claims otherwise. Many feel a sense of entitlement because, in their minds, they are somehow more special.
It might be the alleged “expert” from academia, who claims a certain school of thought has found all the answers to life’s mysteries. In their smug piety, safe and secure in the ivory towers of “higher education”, they appeal to their own deceptions. Then again, another claimant to personal exception might be “landed gentry” or upper social status. By wealth and materiality, they believe they are “different”. Still though, others claim their “entitled status” to elected office, or even the presidency.
There are no excuses for the abusive behaviors inflicted upon others. People are very capable of being dangerously aggressive, predatory and malevolent creatures. With calculation and malice aforethought, and intent, everyone is capable of anything in order to get his or her way. People are extraordinarily hedonistic. Human nature has not changed very much in the history of the human species. Given our inclination to self-destructive behavior, we are likely increasing the rapidity by which our devolution will hasten eventual extinction. Counterproductive processes are underway.
There are no justifications, pretentious alibis, or make-believe paranormal mitigations, regardless of theories to the contrary, that alleviate the accountability for the evils people do. While others may sternly disagree with this perspective, as various fields of the pseudosciences might assert, people makes choices, both good and evil. In the decision making process, cost versus benefit is elemental. What really matters is whether the individual is transforming by becoming a more differentiated and mature personality.
Self-evolving individuality requires the courage of personal liberation for one’s thinking processes, in pursuit of a higher ascendency for thought and action. Maturity assumes a profound growth in responsibility for personal choices and subsequent behaviors. An evolving individual is labors diligently for selfless personal growth. For him or her, the personal quest spans a lifetime. From grown up thinking processes, he or she embraces accountability for the responsibility of personal transformation.
Unfortunately, the sad state of affairs slants in the direction that colludes a sleight of hand, in the never-ending deceptions of human behavior. Unevolved and self-centered motivations promulgate the easy mitigations of unscientific conjecture that fosters intentional gullibility in deterministic simplicity. From academia to commercial and political oligarchies of power and control, for the satiation of economic self-interests, careers and industries have been constructed around the psychobabbles of misdirection. While tacitly, behind the scenes, some might decry the flagrant and unjustified fallacies that sell hasty generalizations reinforced by emotion reactivity, change is futile.
Too late, the devolution process continues a regression of the human species into the macabre anti-thinking of arrogant selfishness. There is an excuse for everything, a pill to cure anything and a “diagnosis” to excuse horrendous and torturous behaviors. Whether pontificating about a perpetrator’s upbringing, bad parenting, neighborhood, poverty of “broken windows”, and any other externality of “cause and effect”, the majority of contemporary explanations do not solve the crisis of a faltering global civilization. Several noted physicists and futurist have asserted the eventual demise of the human species. Nonetheless, we come up with excuses to blame someone or something.
However, we have “experts” that frequently appear alongside smugly self-righteous newscasters, and explain the alleged mitigating factors, from assassinations to genocide, and commercial fraud to political corruption. The fascinating prospect about most “experts”, especially in the so-called hallowed halls of academia, is that they never actually were practitioners who plied their craft in the real world. One might ponder, how do they “know” so much, when they do not share any significant experience in the reality of human interactivities? Whoa, that should be scary. However, it is not.
As suggested earlier, in the realm of the pseudosciences, anything is possible from a theoretical viewpoint, especially as some attempt to articulate a biased perspective. From theory to belief, mainstream acceptance and political acquiescence demonstrates complicity across a wide audience. Politically, the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government, partly in courtrooms, allow the viability of alleged “expertise”. Even if there is no scientific validation, the proof of questionable behavioral theories is readily considered. In an adversarial system of jurisprudence, for instance, “experts” on both sides can offer “expert opinion” testimony as “evidence”.
Absent the science, as in fingerprints, DNA, toxicology, etc., which opinion is valid? After all, both sides in a controversy get to claim and otherwise assert the philosophy of their school of thought as though it reflects confirmed scientific authenticity. Subsequently, a panel of laypersons, a jury, gets to decide whom they believe. Such manifestations of speculation are often treated as if they are true beyond any doubt and to the exclusion of all other possibilities. Frequently, adherents of one of the interpretations will argue vehemently with opposing views as to which or what is the truth.
When it comes to human behavior, no one has all the answers, and no certainty as to anything close to solutions. To the criminology classicists, particularly the practitioners (i.e. police, corrections, probation officers, etc.), outside the schemes of academia, human nature is simultaneously good and evil, through an intricate psychodynamic weaving of complex personality. From the basis of this theoretical construct, humans are rational individuals, often hiding behind masks of deception. Yet, to cover the individuality of malevolent intentions, many conceal their biases within a framework of illusions.
Nonetheless, for some human beings, they have cleverly invented a maze of mitigations or excuses. By extraordinary means, from academia, commercial, and medical enterprises, to political collusions, the smoke and mirrors of promulgates public deception. As to the frauds of misrepresentation of “pseudoscience” versus hard science, the public’s gullibility chooses easy acceptance as to the misdirection. While some claims hide behind an array of terms, labels and “diagnoses”, the scientific efficacy remains unsubstantial. For the classical adherents however, people are supremely capable of exercising the scary notion of volition, or freedom to choose.
The frightening prospect of accountability in the exercise of free will troubles many theorists. As a result, the multifaceted U.S. “criminal justice systems”, reflect many influences from both schools of thought. At the beginning, the process to investigate and arrest, prosecute and sentence is primarily from a classical model, strongly supported by evidence-based procedures. In the next, phases, post-sentencing, so called correctional facilities become predisposed to “rehabilitation” leanings. Misbehavior, in terms of criminality, is the result of other causes external to the criminal. Predisposition to criminal behavior becomes the passageway by which illegality is the result of the typical excuses. These include poverty, family, neighborhood and abuse.
For the classical perspective, no one gets away with excuses. In fact, mitigations are virtually non-concerns. What matters is the unlawful behavior. The classicist asserts that everyone is free to make choices, regardless of personal circumstances, which challenges the “positivism” of the deterministic conceptions of culpability. As to perhaps thirty other “schools of thought”, that considers a person “hardwired”, “predestined”, exceptionally influenced by prior “causes”, such as “mental illness”, is not within the socio-economic framework of the classic view of criminality. Personal responsibility is of immediate consideration and eventual sanction by certainty of punishment.
Opposing views would argue and protest differently. Nonetheless, swift retribution is necessary along an ethical continuum of moral justification. By reason and logic of capable capacity, the perpetrator, regardless of high standing or communal connections, is responsible for every act of malevolent commission inflicted upon others. There are no exceptions, particularly as pertains to wealth, power and political connections. Especially, in those cases of defendant affluence, the upper reaches of oligarchy receive no special dispensation as to occupancy in a penal facility. Of all groups of criminals, the rich should share the same accommodations alongside the not so wealthy.
For every human, irrespective of academic allusion, social rank, or theoretical speculation, intends any given action based upon the self-interests of a personal decision-making process. By whatever means, to augment and further clarify the choices to be made, subsequent actions weigh in the balance between gain and risk, productivity and loss, and ultimately essential satiation. Convenient and comfortable utility to reinforce the thinking processes, as well as express that, which is necessary to personal enrichment, encompasses individual selfishness. The rationality, as seen by others less predisposed to observe their own shortcomings, may dismiss the reasoning behind counterproductive actions. Other schools of thought have tried to dismiss any particular notion of one’s actions as freely chosen. Instead, by clever diversion, excuses are many.
Regardless of deterministic insistence, classical admonitions assert the primacy of free choice. Inventions of a wide spectrum of “mental illness” does not lesson or mitigate individual responsibility for malevolent actions. Oriented toward the goals of self-gratification and personal enrichment, at the expense of others, illicit and anti-communal actions are to be dealt with in equal retribution regardless of socio-economic status.
Whether by smug piety in amative arrogance of corrupt politicians, or corporate moguls who exploit others and the environment, their anti-social maladaptation are intentionally calculated. Cruel behavior is nothing new for the human species, and not much has changed in a couple hundred thousand years. Sure, many would like to believe there is such a thing as “civilization”. In addition, there is the mournful refrain, almost whining tone frequently in the news media, about something called a “civilized society”. Yet, that is a biased misrepresentation of one or more individual perceptions.
The real world is a decidedly dangerous place. Treachery and oppression are disguised and camouflaged by deceptions. In order to satiate a gullible public, pacify large segments of the population, and foster a climate of irresponsible dependence, pseudoscience can be sold as “science”. Furthermore, to ensure consumer marketing, sales and consumption, why not invent all kinds of diagnoses, and makeup something called “mental illness”. As to the metaphorical reference regarding thinking, the “mind” reflects a complex internal infrastructure not easily quantified.
Counterproductive actions that harm people and environments are perpetrated from a premeditated and intention design. It does not matter if the malevolent individual is a corporatist, politician or street thug, the malice in thinking follows similar processes from thought to action. The most important ingredient is in the decision-making that devolves to the adverse nature of choices. Offenders understand they are harming others, but decide for their on enrichment to do it anyway.
Selfish, self-focused, manipulative thinking, entitlement, and whiny “victimization”, characterize additional elements of immature behaviors. Being self-centered and exploitive could be descriptive of most people in general. Regardless of the “disguise” one wears in public, there is always the hidden dimension behind the “mask”. From assassins to white-collar embezzlers, murderers and terrorists, motivational factors follow an interpersonal trajectory of power, control and domination over others. In the aftermath of a calamitous event, it is very easy and notoriously simplistic to speculate on comforting deterministic factors outside the perpetrator. Criminal justice personnel, many who should know better, like politicians and the press, rush to hasty unsubstantiated conclusions. What a person chooses to think and do is part of their purposely calculated freedom of choice. Inanimate objects do not make people do things.
Lifeless, non-living, inorganic things do not make people do illicit and dastardly deeds. Humans are all too capable to commit atrocious acts of personal culpability freely, readily and with serious malevolent intentions. Similarly, the internet does not force people to do “evil” actions. Likewise, vast innovations in “technology” do not cause people to carryout cyber intrusions, swindles, and sordid illegalities.
Terrorism “radicalization”, so easily tossed around by pundits and others who should know better, does not force people to commit terroristic criminalities. Additionally, the usual suspect scapegoats, like “peer pressure”, “bullying”, poverty or bad parenting, cause someone to “snap”. Unfortunately, the list of deceptive diversions goes on, and eventually collides with a number theoretical claims, sometimes called diagnoses. All of which reflects someone’s philosophical perspective.
Nevertheless, if you need to feel better about yourself, others, society, etc., reassured by trouble-free answers and convenient conjecture absent scientific validation, then embrace any aspect of the pseudosciences you wish. If you are fearful that your school of thought might be in error if challenged by opposing perspectives, you are free to be as defensive and resentment to any extent desired. There will be opposition.
You can believe anything you want, no matter how deficient the facts are. Such divisiveness and condescension happens every day, from academia to the courtroom. Irrational causal connections arise in every facet of social interaction, as many clamor to justify nebulous notions claiming to answer complex behavioral questions. Often overlooked is the ethical responsibility of the individual adherent for implementing honest, straightforward evidence based strategies in problem-solving processes.
For the classical criminologist, from the non-deterministic viewpoint presented here, it is not the environment, family conditions, society, community and so forth, which are definitive precursor factors causing criminal behavior. Everyone makes choices and determines their eventual behavioral responses. It does not matter whether corporate pirate or international terrorist and everything in between, responsibility, and ultimate accountability, rests fully with the perpetrator. From corrupt politicians to Wall Street “gangsters”, premeditation configures with malevolent intentions to commit illegalities that harm others. A particular school of thought can argue a certain philosophical perspective to mitigate, excuse or otherwise rationalize the limited culpability.
However, in the end, the absence of sure, swift and certain punishment, regardless of socio-economic status, political connections, alleged “mental illness”, or assorted excuses, hastens the regression of the human species. In furtherance of social decay, a devolving society bent on extinction collectively rationalizes any possibility for aberrant behavior. Every effort to ensure the criminal’s responsibility, and subsequent incapacitation, remain essential to safeguarding societal stability.
Unfortunately, in an alleged modern society and so-called civilized culture, which are actually not the case, counterproductive actions insist upon different results. With the varied schools of thought perpetrated by various pseudosciences, the probability of change and transformation of humankind is likely too late. The illusions fostered by non-scientific instigations in egregious fallacies of inference, contravene and stifle productive countermeasures for realistic appraisals of human malevolence.
Criminals come in all sizes, shapes and severity of harm they inflict. They corporatists who exploit the economic system, and politicians who abuse the political systems they manipulate. Their ranks span a spectrum of self-indulgent hedonistic armed robbers, to greedy telemarketers who fled the mail and internet with hideous advertisements. The scope, extent and nature of their criminality are contingent on a “cost-risk-reward” premeditation. Arguments as to the essence of causality are frivolous and unproductive when such claims devolve to the externality of deterministic sources.
An abundance of “experts” from many fields of study claim to know the “single bullet” factor that solves the proverbial “why” question. Why did he or she do the heinous deed? Politicians, pundits, proselytes and the majority of the public, rush to hasty generalizations, based on a specious conjecture, to answer that solitary question. Yet, that part of the cause-effect equation cannot find easy solution. Who knows and furthermore who cares? More importantly, what happened, what is an appropriate sanction, and what restores the imbalance caused by the harm?
Of the rudimentary components of who, what, where, when, why and how, in the criminal justice rubric, it is the “what” that outweighs the “why”. As regards criminality, knowing the “why” infers invasive actions by the state to oppress civil liberties for the sake of “public safety and security”. That is the clever ruse of “wannabe scientific” fields to foster deceptions in order to sell products, services and specious theories.
To that perspective, of the nature of specious or hallow or otherwise deceptive inferences, contemporary conjecture confuses the spectrum of critical analysis. Deterministic afflictions, “hard wired” cerebral fixations and alleged DNA malfunctions, among others, assert a non-science stream of excuses for perpetrators. Beyond the control and capability of the individual, the criminal as “victim”, the pseudosciences of positivistic heritage continue to claim a variety of nebulous notions. As conclusive explanations for the mitigation of criminality, many claim the sufficiency of easy “answers”, absent scientific validity. Yet, the mystery of human nature continues.
Nonetheless, in an age of “anti-intellectualism”, where serious thought is weighed between emotional assertion and factual evidence, public policy is adversely affected by the misguidance of competing interests. As to the classical philosophy, everyone is responsible for his or her thinking processes and subsequent actions taken. Whether classical, neo-classical, rational choice, or seductions to adversity and maladaptation, the centrality of belief remains in the notion of one’s freedom to choose. To that end, without interventions of self-serving excuses, accountability is essential.
To the classical criminologist, and in particular, those who are real world practitioners, there is no viability for the influence of ideological mysticism, superstition and anything purporting to be of supernatural interference as deterministic factors. Yet, among the pseudosciences, there are inclinations of some schools of thought that come very close to the edge of such unsubstantiated “magical thinking”. By their insistence upon that which is not well established by scientific validation, claiming positions of science, where scientific provability is untenable, commits damage to reason and rationality.
Criminality comes from within the individual and everyone has the capacity to commit criminal acts. It could be argued, depending on a definition of “criminality”, that everyone at one time or another has committed some type of criminal behavior. To think that through, and consider the myriad social rules, regulations, ordinances, statutes, and so on, a number of possibilities exist in many aspects of daily living. From assaultive threats, to hate speech, to discrimination and all manner of thievery, people choose their communal disruptions. Humans misbehave, not objects or things. Fundamentally, rationality in choosing behavioral actions is based upon psychodynamic complexity not easily answered or quantified in precise and definitive ways.
In spite of contemporary illusions, reinforced by magical thinking as hope springs eternal, the realization is that there will always be “anti-social” people who will do “evil things” to others. As such, in order to salvage the viability of public safety, order maintenance, and social ascendancy, the classical or rational perspective on the criminal behavior must expand in more realistic, rational and methodical progressions. Criminality, as an aspect of human nature, with its attendant complexity will not change dramatically, regardless of the myriad of pseudoscientific assertions.
Mitigations to the contrary of sure, swift and certain actions, will continue to circumvent every effort to control or otherwise interdict maladaptive choices. In post-modern American society, erroneous beliefs characterized by admonitions of politicians, pundits and other self-serving interests, in emotional reactivity to heinous acts, represent futile energies at the expense of those victimized.
Recently, in the sensationalized reporting of various murderous incidents, calls for more laws, increased “mental health” expenditures, excessive labeling by way of questionable “diagnoses”, and a range of sectarian ideologies that over-ride rational applications, hasten the demise of the human species. In the wake of terroristic incidents, emotion driven pretenses to journalism stir the “false cause” fallacies of inference, whereby anything is rationalized for the sake of simplistic answers.
While career politicians pander the public to ensure easy pacification with hasty and unsubstantiated conclusions, others call for the collectivist notion of “national unity” and “peace and harmony”, by offering weak, empty and feeble responses. Alternatively, most simply whine and complain without proposing serious, well-studied, and logically sound solutions to deal with complicated societal interactions. Meanwhile, some academicians who have never served or practiced in the real world continue to promote their “expertise” for a particular philosophy assumed “scientific”.
Feel good proclamations only fulfill the satiation of the moment to appease emotional reactivity, as opposed to thoughtful coherent and genuine actions. The never-ending debate regarding criminality, in which “good vs. evil” considers “nature vs. nurture”, often regresses to the shallowness of deterministic factors. Sometimes, the “single factor” issue drives misdirection instead of investigating the reality of choice. Within the scope of classical criminology, choice requires accountability and that is scary.
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