Type: Controversial Essays
Sample donated: Elaine Gibson
Last updated: June 22, 2019
The question of whether or not Capital Punishment is ethicalhas been a problem society has faced for a long time. The death penalty is givento those who commit crimes so heinous, like murder, that society believes the criminalresponsible deserves death as a punishment. A widely controversial subject, thedeath penalty ethical question is split among many people of differing ideas withsome believing it is bad, and some believing it to be good. This essay will goover why the death penalty is ethical from the stances of Immanuel Kant and Utilitarianism.
Immanuel Kant believed that the death penalty was morallyjustifiable in certain cases and insisted on the capital punishment for murderssaying, “whoever has committed murder, must die” (Kant). He believedthat a society that does not sentence someone who has killed people to death isjust as bad as committing the crime itself. Kant criticizes the belief that no onehas a right to deprive a person of a right to live.
He believed that a stateshould have the right to kill a murderer. Kant believed that capital punishment is justified only for seriouscrimes such as murder or anything that causes a very large amount of damage tosociety. He believed it was impossible to allow any type of situation where amurderer should be entitled to any legal rights and would be able to justifyhis actions.
He also believed that we could not get rid of capital punishmentand didn’t know what could take its place it if it was abolished. Kant thoughtthat if a criminal is not punished then society has a controversial nature andundermines itself. He also believed punishing an innocent man by accident was betterthan failing to punish someone who has committed a crime and believed amurderer sentenced to death shouldn’t be allowed to appeal for a lighterpunishment.The death penalty in the United States is reserved for only themost heinous of crimes. It is not a state-run lottery that randomly chooses peopleat random from among all those convicted of murder.
Instead, it is a systemthat selects the worst of the worst. If you were to sentence killers like theones previously described to a lighter punishment, such as a long period inprison, would be disproportionate to the severity of the crime. Kant insistedon the capital punishment for murderers. Kant said that “whoever has committed murder, must die”(Kant). A society that does not sentence a murderer to death turns into anaccomplice of this crime. Utilitarianism views the death penalty as being morallyjustifiable if it benefits society as a whole or promotes general happiness. So,if someone commits very serious crimes like murder then it would promote thegeneral happiness of the public to have that person be punished with the deathpenalty. So, while even though punishing criminals might cause sadness and painfor them and the people who are close to them, these punishments will ensurethe happiness of the society as a whole.
It can be said that Utilitarianismssupport death penalty because, violating laws causes pain for the majority ofthe society so preventing this pain is necessary. However, they don’t believeit is all right to punish criminals in order to give them what they deserve orexact revenge or retribution on them. The problem with retribution, for utilitarianists,is that it promotes suffering without any gain in happiness.
Utilitarianists also believe capital punishment is meant todeter many criminals from committing murder. The severity of losing one’s life isintended to cause fear and consequently prevent crime. The death penalty isalso better than life imprisonment because it prevents the criminal whocommitted such heinous crimes from being released from prison and committing themagain. From this viewpoint, the taking of the criminal’s life is justified becauseit prevents the taking of other, innocent lives.
If decided that the permittingthe criminal to live may result in consequences of more terrible crimes, then capitalpunishment would be considered an appropriate alternative in that case. These views show that the death penalty is an ethicalsolution to terrible crimes. All of these viewpoints state that the deathpenalty should only be used in scenarios where the criminal in question hascommitted the most heinous of crimes, murder. Kant states that if a criminalhas killed someone then he forfeits his rights as a human being and hispunishment should be equal to the crime. Executing murderers prevents themfrom committing their crime again, and thus protects innocent victims.
The goodoutweighs the bad, and the executioner is morally justified in taking themurderer’s life. It is actually more morally wrong to simply incarcerate amurderer to a life of air-conditioning, television equipped prison where theyget three free meals a day, recreational time, and visits from people close tothem. Someone who murders another person can only be made to pay for theiractions by forfeiting their rights and giving their life in place of the personthey killed. It should be this way because a loss of freedom does not compareto loss of life. If the punishment for smaller crimes such as theft is imprisonment,then the punishment for murder must be even more severe, because human life ismuch more valuable than any material item. For example, if a murderer took thelife of a child and the criminal was only given a life sentence then, thefamily of the victim will be paying taxes for his meals and his television.
Andif he were to take the college courses that prison might offer him, the familyof the victim would be financing that as well. This goes against Kant and utilitarianismbecause it doesn’t strip the criminal of their rights or punish them accordingly,but it also doesn’t promote happiness to the victim’s family.Many people also tend to claimthat the death penalty is just a means of revenge. However, it is not while inreality, the murderer actually gets off fairly easy when they are sentenced todeath.
The murderer is often only injected with a lethal injection. If a personis given the lethal injection they are put to sleep and then given a shot thatwill stops their heart. The criminal dies from overdose and respiratory andcardiac arrest while they are unconscious.
The small amount of pain thecriminal goes through does not even begin to compensate for the pain of thevictims and their families.