Kant and Mills on Capital Punishment
Capital punishment has raised debate in America since 1608. Both the “pro-“ and “anti-“ sides of the issue have strong arguments. Some believe killing is simply wrong, and violates universal human rights, others seek the only justice they deem appropriate, equal justice. I will examine the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill, with regards to their stance on the death penalty. John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806- 8 May 1873) was born in London, England. He was a renowned philosopher best known for his interpretation of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham. Utilitarianism is based on the concept that an actions morality should be judged solely upon its resulting universal happiness. Under utilitarianism one should act only in a way that would promote the most good for the most people. Utilitarian’s view suffering as intrinsically bad, and only when the amount of suffering is outweighed by the amount of resulting benefit is suffering acceptable. Punishment involving suffering is a very complicated concept for utilitarian’s. With regards to crime the only justifiable punishment is a punishment that will in turn reduce crime. Utilitarian decisions are in a sense always a balancing act between total good and consequential harm. The same is true for deciding how to punish criminal offenders; one most determine whether the overall balance of pleasure is increased or decreased because of the form of punishment considered. In doing this a true utilitarian would have to a lot equal consideration to the suffering of all parties including the criminal offender. Mills addressed these issues on April 21, 1868 in a speech given before parliament in response to a bill banning capital punishment. In this speech he displayed a clear support for capital punishment. Mills views capital punishment as a tool to keep society in order, and as the greatest deterrent from future crime. There are two ways to view...
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