Capital Punishment: for and Against Essay

2579 Words Sep 29th, 1999 11 Pages
Capital Punishment: For and Against

Thesis One: In principle a case can be made on moral grounds both supporting and opposing capital punishment. Thesis two: Concretely and in practice, compelling arguments against capital punishment can be made on the basis of its actual administration in our society.

Two different cases can be made. One is based on justice and the nature of a moral community. This leads to a defense of capital punishment. The second is based on love and the nature of an ideal spiritual community. This leads to a rejection of capital punishment. A central principle of a just society is that every person has an equal right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Within that framework, an argument for capital
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Such, in brief, is the argument for and against capital punishment, one founded on justice and the nature of moral community, the other resting on love and the nature of an ideal spiritual community. If we stand back from this description and make an attempt at evaluation, one point is crucial. The love ethic requires a high degree of moral achievement and maturity. It is more suitable for small, closely-knit communities in which members know each other personally and in some depth. Forgiveness and reclamation flourish best in a setting in which people can participate in each other's lives. If you press the motif to its highest manifestation, it becomes an ethic of non-resistance to evil, unqualified pacifism, and self-sacrifice in which self-interest is totally abandoned. The non-resisting Jesus on the cross who surrenders his life to save others is the epitome of at this level. Love at this point becomes superethical. It is grounded in a deep faith in God that surrenders any reference to earthly justice.
That is the reason for speaking of love and the nature of an ideal spiritual community. Love of this kind abandons the right to kill another in self-defense and will refuse absolutely to kill enemies even in a just war. If made into a social ethic, it requires the poor to sacrifice for the rich, the sick to sacrifice for the healthy, the oppressed to sacrifice for the oppressor. It

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