Capital punishment: Encyclopedia II - Capital punishment - Ethical views on capital punishment
Capital punishment - Ethical views on capital punishment
Ethical arguments for and against an issue can be divided into consequentialist, deontological and virtue-based. Some arguments cannot be clearly assigned a category. Categorisation of arguments for and against the death penalty. 1.
Consequentialist arguments: the deterrence argument, the prevention argument, economic arguments, effectiveness of the judicial and penal systems 2.
Deontological arguments: the retribution argument, discriminatory use of the death penalty, right-to-life arguments, consideration of democratic rights 3.
Virtue-based arguments: the rehabilitation argument, cruel and unusual punishments, 4.
Mixed arguments: the human fallibility argument, extreme cases and exceptional circumstances In most surveys of people's reasons for supporting the death penalty, retribution is listed as the main reason while deterrence comes second. Capital punishment - The Deterrence Argument
Proponents of the death penalty argue that it deters potential murders. Opponents of the death penalty argue that it does not in fact deter. Subarguments can be divided into a priori issues and empirical issues. Empirical issues look at statistics to find out if deterrence does or does not occur. A priori issues include the question "if the death penalty in fact deters, is it nevertheless right to use it?" - in other words, is deterrence a sufficient justification? In favour, it can be argued that a killing is justified if such an act could save another life. Against, it can be argued that the issue of punishment should look to the criminal and the victim, not the future free choices of uninvolved observers who might or might not be contemplating their own crimes. Many empirical studies have been done with disputed results and significance. Some studies have shown a correlation between the death penalty and murder rates  - in other words, they show that where the death penalty applies, murder rates are also high. This correlation can be interpreted in at least two different ways, one of which can be used to support, the other to oppose the death penalty: either the death penalty increases murder rates by brutalising society (opposing) or higher murder rates cause the state to retain or reintroduce the death penalty (supporting). It is difficult for statistical research on murder rates to prove or disprove the deterrence theory because such studies demonstrate correlation not causation. Further arguments hold that deterrence was greater in the past, when societies had fewer resources at their disposal for the detection and punishment of crime (e.g. no police forces and no prison systems). In these societies, it was may have been justifiable to make examples of a few to discourage the rest. However today new punishments such as life imprisonment carry their own deterrent effect. It can be argued that anyone who would be deterred by the death penalty would already have been deterred by life in prison, and people that are not deterred by that would not be stopped by any punishment. A further argument is that potential criminals think that they won't be caught, so they do not care about punishment until it is too late. Capital punishment - The Prevention Argument
The idea behind the prevention argument is that a killer will probably kill again and the death penalty stops them from doing it again. Like the deterrence argument, the prevention argument can be extended to all sorts of other crimes. If the criminal is dead, they cannot steal, lie, cheat or offend society in any other way. In the pre-modern period, authorities had neither the resources nor the inclination to detain someone indefinitely. For this reason, the death penalty was usually the only means to prevent a criminal from re-offending. Against the death penalty, it can be argued that today prevention is equally well...
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