Hammurabi's code compared to todayIs the perception of justice contained in the excerpt from Hammurabi's code actually more equitable, particularly toward victims, than that employed in North...

Hammurabi's code compared to today

Is the perception of justice contained in the excerpt from Hammurabi's code actually more equitable, particularly toward victims, than that employed in North American courts today? Why or Why not?

Asked on by moocow554

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I'd like to think that we have moved beyond the code, but our justice system is still based on many of them same ideas. Not everything is about justice. There is a fine line between justice and vengeance sometimes. The death penalty is an example of this.
larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It was hardly more equitable, as it makes a distinction based on class. Those who were noblemen were treated less harshly than commoners, who were commonly put to death, quite often in a "punishment fit the crime" sort of way. Our present system of justice calls for equality before the law, which did not exist at that time. Although our system does not always work perfectly, no distinction is made by the law on account of class. This is why our symbol of justice shows her to be blind.

Further, the Code of Hammurabi was based on the idea of lex talionis whereby one who failed to rescue a person from a fire was himself thrown into the fire. This type system satisfies the natural instinct humans have for revenge, which is often clothed as "justice." Our present legal system has moved away from revenge as a proper motive of punishment; our Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment which throwing a person into the fire or putting out his eye would certainly be.

Mohandas K. Ghandi once said "an eye for an eye leaves both blind." The victim gains nothing from exacting revenge. To that extent, I do not think Hammurabi's code was more equitable. The American system of justice has its flaws, as the Casey Anthony case abundantly illustrates; but it is far more fair than the ancient code.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It's hard to know which aspects of the code you are talking about since we do not know what excerpt you are working from.  However, the general thrust of much of this code is "an eye for an eye."  We see this in such laws as the one saying that a builder who builds a house that collapses and kills someone shall be himself put to death.  Depending on your vision of what is "equitable" you can argue that this sort of thing is more equitable than the financial settlements that are used to bring about justice in our system.

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