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Eissler, K.R. (1945). Some Primitive Trends in Civilized Justice: Gregory Zilboorg. J. of Criminal Psychopathology, IV, 1943, pp. 599–604.. Psychoanal Q., 14:279-280.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Some Primitive Trends in Civilized Justice: Gregory Zilboorg. J. of Criminal Psychopathology, IV, 1943, pp. 599–604.

(1945). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 14:279-280

Some Primitive Trends in Civilized Justice: Gregory Zilboorg. J. of Criminal Psychopathology, IV, 1943, pp. 599–604.

Kurt R. Eissler

The general attitude of our society to the institution of capital punishment is discussed. Active proposition of capital punishment has given way to passive adherence. The psychology of this passive adherence has to be clearly understood, for the 'mere change of the existing formal laws seldom if ever succeeds in changing the substance of man's attitude'.

The talion principle is part of man's tradition and originates from religious practices, as all law once came from religion. The customary presence of a priest before and during an execution is a remnant of this ancient connection. The author rightly points out the uniqueness of a situation in which a priest 'reconciles a man to an eternity to which not the Lord, but the hand of the executioner is to commit him'. He warns against making the state itself responsible for the persistence of primitive impulses without due consideration of man's psychology. Proofs of the potency of these primitive

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impulses are numerous, and the author reviews the most important of them. Historically, man's affirmative attitude towards capital punishment goes back to the ancient practice of 'noxal surrender' (which is more thoroughly discussed by the author in his book Mind, Medicine and Man). Capital punishment gives to the members of society not physical, but psychological security.

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Article Citation

Eissler, K.R. (1945). Some Primitive Trends in Civilized Justice. Psychoanal. Q., 14:279-280

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