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Why We Should Put The Death Penalty To Rest

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Stephen Nathanson’s claims were stated as followed:

  1. If there are factual and moral inconsistencies with one’s reasons for supporting the death penalty, then one ought to reject the death penalty.
  2. There are factual and moral inconsistencies with one’s reasons for supporting the death penalty
    1. There are inconsistencies in principle
    2. There are inconsistencies in practice.
  3. There, one ought to reject the death penalty.

Nathanson defends his claim by firstly stating the reasons as to why someone may be in favor of the death penalty. He does this to argue the common reasons that has shaped societies’ moral integrity against the preservation of human life. The first major point Nathanson brings up when examining the arguments are as follows: the death penalty is a disincentive to murderers and therefore save’s more lives. He reasons this as a powerful claim because, if someone is a murderer, people gravitate toward the idea that it would be better to execute than to risk more lives in danger. And the reasoning behind those that believe in this ideology is that they value the lives of innocent people more so than they do murderers. He takes a closer look into this and comes up with the conclusions that deterring the murders with a “terrible punishment” in order to receive reaction is not only insufficient but can also put innocent lives at risk. The second major point that Nathanson brings up is associated with the idea “an eye for an eye “expression. The belief that if someone harms you in some way, then in return they should be harmed in the same way. He states that this expression is controversial in regard to the death penalty because there are problems that are intertwined within it. The major problem being that it serves no true direction in the deciding factors of punishments, and because of that it clouds our own credibility on the issue. Intended homicide is not always the case in murder and so leaning on the ideal of “an eye for an eye” states that we treat everyone equally and in doing so, it is fair game to replicate the same situation for the murderer as a form of punishment. The article uses the example of a man trying to burn down a building and in so killing several people. Yet, he was not aware that there were people in the building. So, Nathanson goes on to say that those who believe in this ideology must abandon it because different types of murders, such as the man and the burning building, should be dealt with first considering both the intentions and situations before acting upon it. Nathanson defends his claim by also addressing the issue in the practice of the death penalty. He brings up the issues of how the institutions that runs the death penalty favors those of race, socio-economic statues, and quality of legal representation. There have been several examples of this throughout the years where people who were not a certain color or were only appointed a court-ordered lawyer were not given the same opportunity to fight for their case as those who were wealthy and could afford their own lawyer. Nathanson argues these points stating that the value of human life is decreased by the way the court takes into consideration factors that are irrelevant and not the nature of the incident itself. Because of this, he claims the practice of the death penalty as an invalid form of punishment in favor of the people who weren’t given a fair chance. Not only that, but he touches on how the system itself is unstable and therefore unreliable. He talks about the executions and how some were sent off and some were let go but on very different, unreasonable circumstances and how deadlines are given for evidence and if are not met, then it is therefore the deciding factor on the life of the murderer. Because of these reasons, Nathanson describes, we risk the idea of possibly executing someone who may have been innocent. He concludes his statement by claiming that the death penalty is not only about preserving the value of life, but understanding who we, as citizens, are giving the power to decide who gets to choose that life for others.

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Virtue Ethics would suggest that we agree with the argument against pro death because it values heavily on the importance of human life and giving people the chance that they deserve, the rights that they have as human beings. One of the major factors of virtue ethics is the idea of human flourishing and the death penalty does not go along with that ideal. Humans cannot flourish if they are not given the opportunities to do so. Our morality stems from understanding human life and trying to uncover its secrets. Thus, virtue ethics leaves it up to the individual to create a life for himself that he finds respectable and good, that brings him happiness, and in the process uncovering what it is in life that he deems valuable. In saying this, being a supporter of the death penalty takes that idea and executes it, no longer giving the person the chance to flourish in his own way. The system works against virtue ethics in that a person’s fate is put into the hands of someone else. Someone else whose intention may or may not be good and therefore they may lose their life because of it.

13 January 2020

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