Immanuel Kant's Approach To Capital Punishment

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Capital punishment or simply the death penalty, is usually the harshest sentence reserved for those who have committed such reprehensible acts that they warrant death. In justifying punishment, there has been significant discourse regarding a retributive point of view and a consequentialist one. Retributivists, such as Immanuel Kant, posit that punishing those who have done wrong is justifiable because we are merely giving them what they deserve in return for what they have done. On the other hand, consequentialists assert that punishment is justifiable as it brings about positive consequences such as crime deterrence, rehabilitation, and social protection. In this paper, we will primarily examine the Kantian approach to capital punishment …show more content…
We will defend and explicate on the view that while Kant does adequately justify capital punishment, his arguments are prone to misinterpretations. Kant defines several important terms in “The Metaphysics of Morals”, his doctrine explicating rationality in morality. He defines “crime” to be an intentional transgression, “punishment” as the rightful effect of doing less than what the law requires. He champions capital punishment, holding the view that “If you slander another, you slander yourself; if you steal from another, you steal from yourself; if you strike another, you strike yourself; if you kill another, you kill yourself.” This is the right of retaliation (jus talionis); that is supposedly the only principle that definitely assigns both the quality and the quantity of a just penalty in regulating a public …show more content…
First, Kant says that an action is permissible if it can be universalised. “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Capital punishment, dealing the death penalty to convicted murderers is an action that can be universalised. Second, Kant places emphasis on the value of human life, stating that it is impermissible to treat another person merely as a means and not an end. Kant’s categorical imperative does not allow for treating one as means to an end, therefore meting out punishment as merely a way to serve social purposes would be impermissible. Notably, Kant also argues that only the guilty may be punished. He assumes the criminal to be capable of making rational decisions, that they know and accept fully the consequences following their actions. In committing the crime of murder, they also accept the retribution of capital

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