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Capital Punishment

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Capital Punishment Punishment is defined as a deliberate infliction of harm as a moral sanction against offenders. Punishment may be understood, designed, and applied according to any of the three major varieties of normative theory: retribution and reparation focus on satisfaction of duties, deterrence and prevention on securing desirable outcomes, and reform and rehabilitation on improving moral character. There are different types of punishment, one of these include Capital Punishment, which will be examined at in more detail. Capital Punishment or "state sanctioned killing" said by Wilcockson is the taking of a person's life by the state as the legal penalty for criminal offence. Over the years, capital punishment has become an extremely controversial issue. Many important questions have arisen regarding this issue and some of these include, "how should a criminal be punished?" Also, "do criminals really deserve to be punished harshly using the death penalty?" People disagree about whether capital punishment is moral or if it is effective in discouraging crime. Many oppose the death penalty because they consider it cruel. Critics also believe that there is a risk of executing mistakenly convicted people. Supporters of the death penalty believe that in some instances, people who take another human life deserve to forfeit their own lives. Many supporters also argue that the threat of death discourages crime. In the UK, capital punishment is illegal unless a person has committed high treason, however other countries such as the United States allow for the death penalty to be carried out as a form of punishment. On average 75 executions occur each year throughout the United States. As you may be aware by now, there are many philosophical and ethical problems regarding this issue. In order for us to understand the concept of the dilemma, we need to examine it by using two ethical theories, which will enable us to deliver an evaluation of the dilemma. ...read more.


Mill maintained that the well being of the individual was of great importance and that happiness is most effectively gained when individuals are free to pursue their own ends, subject to rules that protect the common good of all. While Mill accepted the utility principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, he was concerned about the difficulty raised in the example of the sadistic guards, "sadistic guards torture a wrongly imprisoned innocent man." If the greatest good for the greatest number were purely quantitative, based on the quantities of pleasure and pain caused, what would stop one person's pleasure from being completely extinguished if the majority gained pleasure from that act? To address this difficulty, Mill focused on qualitative pleasures. He developed a system of higher and lower pleasures, preferring the higher pleasures to the lower ones: "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." (Mill, 1863, chapter 2). Mill maintained that the pleasures of the mind were higher than those of the body. There's a link between the two, as to be able to enjoy poetry or art, we need to eat and drink in order to survive. Nevertheless, Mill clearly believed that to pursue purely bodily pleasures- food, drink, drugs and sex- were not as high an objective as those that are intellectually demanding. When confronted with a choice between a pleasure of the body and a pleasure of the mind, that of the mind is to be preferred. For the utilitarian all suffering is intrinsically evil. So if punishment involves suffering then punishment involves an evil. This is a strike against punishment for utilitarianism, and punishment would have to be outlawed if other reasons cannot be adduced in its favor. For utilitarianism, societies should punish criminals only if punishment is a cost-effective method of social control - of reducing or eliminating crime. ...read more.


Some pain is good for us- its there for a reason, but can we say the same about capital punishment? Can we really say that a criminal deserves to go through all that pain and suffering especially if he truly repents for what he had done? John Coffee did not deserve to go through all that pain and suffering. A third difficulty concerns the issue of justice. While utilitarianism ensures a maximum-pleasure result, it doesn't set out how that pleasure is distributed. It ensures that the most people receive pleasure, but it guarantees nothing for minorities for example the family of the person being executed. There's nothing in utilitarianism that prevents the total sacrifice of one pleasure for the benefit of the whole. Maclyntyre notes that utilitarianism could justify horrendous acts as being for the pleasure of the many. I.e: Capital punishment. A fourth difficulty is utilitarianisms failure to consider different views on what happiness is. It asserts that there's common agreement about what brings pleasure and what brings pain. This can be challenged on many levels. There are people who are different and find pleasure in experiencing pain, referring back to the Green Mile when the guard asked Coffee if he wanted to escape, he replied that he would not do a foolish thing and he wanted to get the execution over and done with because he was sick of life and sick of the amount of pain he saw in the world. Therefore to conclude, the usefulness of the death penalty to society from a utilitarian perspective cannot be determined apart from a great deal of empirical data which we do not now have. Does it really act as a deterrent? Is it less costly than life in prison? Does it result in more happiness than unhappiness? . It might make society as a whole happier to know that a murderer can never again kill, and it may infact make the murderer himself less unhappy than life without parole. Capital Punishment essay Sukaina Ibrahim ...read more.

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