What is a good thesis statement against Capital Punishment that addresses arguments of retribution,  arbitrariness, deterrence, and innocence ?This is for a philosopy Intro to Ethics course the...

What is a good thesis statement against Capital Punishment that addresses arguments of retribution,  arbitrariness, deterrence, and innocence ?

This is for a philosopy Intro to Ethics course the actual questions given for the topic by the professor are: 

4) Immanuel Kant justifies his support for the death penalty by asserting that

If . . . he has committed murder, he must die. In this case, there is no substitute

that will satisfy the requirements of the legal justice. There is no sameness of

kind between death and remaining alive even under the most miserable

conditions, and consequently there is no equality between crime and the

retribution unless the criminal is judicially condemned and put to death.

Is Kant correct in his reasoning in favor of a death penalty? How do others

justify their support for capital punishment? And how do the opponents of capital

punishment challenge the supporters’ reasoning?

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brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

We have a very limited space to respond to your question, so I can't cover the entire scope of your question, but let me give you some ideas to put into your thesis.

Kant's argument in favor of capital punishment assumes the entire purpose of the legal system is to administer a narrow definition of "justice".  It ignores that another major purpose of the justice system is to protect the public from criminals by separating them from the population.  No death penalty is required to do this.  Nor does the accused, in any society, get an absolutely equal or even adequate defense.

Kant also, one could argue, confuses the idea of justice and punishment, which are not the same.  To achieve justice, wouldn't we have to bring the victim back to life?  Otherwise, the loss is permanent and no true justice can be achieved.  Thus, public safety is of more paramount importance.

As for deterrance, there is ample statistical evidence that suggests crime rates are the same or higher in states that have the death penalty vs. those that do not.

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