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capital punishment

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


E thics, political philosophy The death penalty, or the execution according to the law of murderers and in some societies others who have committed serious crimes. The killing is done by officials in the name of society and on its behalf. The morality of capital punishment has been a puzzling problem for philosophers, especially against the background of the humanism of the Enlightenment . Granted the sanctity of human life, would not the punishment of the death penalty be a violation of the murderer's right to life? The defenders of capital punishment usually follow Locke 's view that although the human right to life is natural, whenever a person violates the right to life of another, he forfeits his own right and it thus need not be respected. This position faces many theoretical difficulties, for it actually denies that the human right to life has absolute value and asserts that it can be yielded in the name of social defense and retributive justice. Philosophers who oppose capital punishment argue that punishment is necessary in order to reduce crime rates, but that it is not necessary to take a person's life to achieve this end. To forfeit one's right to life is not identical with forfeiting one's life. They point to many cases in which innocent people have been executed in miscarriages of justice that cannot be corrected. Because human life has an overriding worth, we must ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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