THE LEGAL SYSTEM THAT WE HAVE TODAY IS OF NO REAL BENEFIT TO SOCIETY IF IT IS CORRUPT. Corrupt Justice Is Not Justice At All. Why do lawyers and judges and politicians and progressives hate true justice?
The questioner asks whether "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is an example of legal nihilism (presumably meaning that a legal system is of no benefit for society).
In some respects we could say that the legal system that we have today is of no real benefit to society because it is corrupt. How is society benefited when the people with the most money can get the more lenient judgments or—as the case in many instances—dismissal, when poor people who commit the same offenses are imprisoned? Where is the benefit when those with the money are serial offenders?
True justice provides adequate punishment and compensation for a crime. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is adequate punishment for a crime, except for one thing: compensation is not adequate.
If a person loses one of his eyes because someone intentionally decided to gouge his eye out, then merely to see the offender's eye removed is inadequate punishment. For their is no compensation made to the victim. The perpetrator got his pleasure from gouging out his victim's eye. Therefore, equitable punishment would require that the victim receive adequate compensation for the loss of his eye.
In this respect, an eye for an eye alone is weak justice, because the victim is not compensated. This is mere retaliation and not justice at all. True justice would demand that not only the offender who intentionally gouged out the victim's eye, receive the same in kind as punishment, but that he also compensate the victim for losses.
Now if a person loses his eye in an accident, then compensation for negligence would be the order of the day. The person responsible for causing the victim to lose his eye needs to assume payment for negligence. Mitigating circumstances ought to be taken into account because an accident may also have been averted if the victim were more circumspect. Mitigation becomes a part of the litigation process; but this is often overlooked when people are looking to prosecute a case.
If our questioner is making a particular reference to the Bible being legally weak, then we find that this is not the case. For in Leviticus we read this:
If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done, it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. (Leviticus 24:19-20)
The words "as he has done, it shall be done to him". Now these words can be overlooked and a claim for the Bible advocating vengeance rather than law can be made. But not when one takes the other verses within the context of the Mosaic Law into account.
Because people do not go around gouging eyes, extracting teeth, fracturing bones in the hope of becoming an ophthalmologist, a surgeon or a dentist, what we have in the instruction is a teaching about equitable justice. This is further evidenced when the following verse from Leviticus, chapter 24, is included as part of the text:
Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 24:21-22)
Just compensation was very much part of the legal requirements obligated upon the Israelites. Unlike other nations, where injustice was the rule depending upon the whims of the rulers, the Israelites were to compensate (make good for losses caused to) victims and at the same time be duly punished. This was to apply to everybody—without exception.
Taken in isolation, the phrase "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" can be argued as being legal nihilism. However, in this instance, the inclusion of the words "Bible phrase" tend to load the question a little. The implication being the Bible and its instructions are unjust and legally irrelevant. This is not the case, as is evident in the fact that when taken in context, the phrase is part of a much more inclusive system that eschews corruption and seeks true justice. For true justice not only punishes each perpetrator fairly for the crime committed but also seeks to see the perpetrator compensate the victim justly for resultant losses incurred because of the violation—something that is not always evident in the current judicial systems that exist within the world.