Emmanuel Kant, Feminist Ethics, and the Death Penalty

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Emmanuel Kant, Feminist Ethics, and the Death Penalty

“With every cell of my being, and with every fiber of my memory, I oppose the death penalty in all forms.... I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don’t think it’s human to become an Angel of Death.” Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1986

“In sorting out my feelings and beliefs, there is, however, one piece of moral ground of which I am absolutely certain: if I were to be murdered I would not want my murderer executed. I would not want my death avenged. Especially by government--which can't be trusted to control its own bureaucrats or collect taxes equitably or fill a pothole, much less decide which of its citizens to kill.” Sister Helen Prejean

“Forgiving violence does not mean condoning violence. There are only two alternatives to forgiving violence: revenge, or adopting an attitude of never-ending bitterness and anger. For too long we have treated violence with violence, and that's why it never ends.” Coretta Scott King

For millennia, men have predominantly held the reins of power throughout the world, most particularly in western culture and societies. The rigid adherence to rules based on reason, to the exclusion of emotion and empathy, have left us with a world filled with far too much violence. Perhaps the views of women and feminist ethics have something to teach us. There is no better place than these two contrasting points of view play out than the issue of the death penalty. For Immanuel Kant, no society can exist without the rule of law. Thus, murder is a crime against society and cannot go unpunished. “Any transgression of the public law which makes him who commits it incapable of being a citizen, constitutes a crime, either simply as a private crime, or also as a public crime” The failure to apply the death penalty in every case of murder would create a contradiction; society would be undermining itself. If...
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