For certain violent crimes committed within our society, particularly murder, it is clear that they should carry a stiffer punishment or sentence than that of other typically lesser crimes such as robbery. What society cannot seem to agree upon is what that punishment should be. Of all the options available, the one form of legal punishment that continues to be a matter of controversy is that of capital punishment or as it is commonly referred to, the death penalty. No other form of legal punishment in the United States raises more moral or ethical questions than the subject of capital punishment.
Both sides of the argument over the death penalty are very polarized in their stance on the issue with little or no middle ground found in the ongoing debate.
In general the main arguments of both sides center around whether or not the death penalty can be regarded as just, whether the death penalty is a deterrent to crime or not and finally other considerations such as the financial costs, to determine the morality of the practice.
In this paper, I will explore the arguments for and against capital punishment to determine whether it is or is not ethical.
The concept of capital punishment has long been a part of human civilization with the first known laws mentioning it being the Code of Hammurabi in the 18th Century BC. In the United States the death penalty has been part of the legal system of since Colonial times with the first recorded legal execution occurring in the Jamestown Colony in 1608. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Furman vs. Georgia ruled that the death penalty as then currently practiced was unconstitutional and instituted a moratorium on capital punishment in the United States. This ruling was reversed in …
… middle of paper … …e by the crime. Under this principle, the only morally permissible punishment according to Kant, for murder is the forfeiture of the offender’s own life. Kant himself states this:If, however, he has committed a murder, he must die. In this case, there is no substitute that will satisfy the requirement of legal justice. There is no sameness of kind between death and remaining alive under the most miserable conditions, and consequently there is also no equality between the crime and the retribution unless the criminal is judicially put to death. (101)It is important to note that retribution (i.e. justice) is not the same thing as revenge or vengeance. Retributive justice is meant as an act by society to correct a harm done against society, in this case murder, whereas revenge or vengeance is an individual act to right a wrong done by one individual against another.
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