Talons Philosophy

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Issue: is capital punishment (death penalty) moral/ethical?

In  Kant’s Categorical Imperative it states that we me must always tcapital punishmentreat others as an ends, not a means to end. In relation to criminals, if we punish them we are showing respect to their ends because we are treating them in how they think others should be treated. We are not punishing them for our own benefit or even theirs, but because  it is conjunction with their ethic that has been supported by their actions.

“If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death….A society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral.”

– Immanuel Kant in Metaphysics of Ethics 

Kant  basically had two principles in how we should punish criminals; the first being that only reason we should punish them is because they have committed the crime, and the second being that the punishment must be equal, or parallel, to the crime.

essentially, if you use the moral reasoning of Kant and the Categorical Impactive, capital punishment is moral.


personally though I don’t agree that capital punishment is moral. Even though Kant’s case makes logical sense to me, in my gut it still feels wrong to say that it is okay to judicially kill another person if they killed someone else. I don’t exactly know why my moral compass makes me feel that way, but I usually like to trust my gut instinct. Maybe its because it doesn’t make sense to me that we would kill a person for killing someone?

why do we kill people who kill people to show killing people is wrong?

– unknown




  1. angelala says:

    I may be mistaken, but I personally think Kant is not endorsing capital punishment. The whole reasoning behind capital punishment is vengeance in a way where it eases the victim’s family. I’m not sure if this makes any sense, but Kant’s reasoning has all to do with equivalent exchange with no strings attached. There should be no feelings of vengeance or hatred, it’s a simple process of eye for an eye. If you take something, you must give something of equal worth back. Capital punishment is a sort of… well, punishment. It’s to show a perpetrator they’ve done something wrong and to warn others not to make the same mistake. There’s a little bit of a difference there, and I’m not quite sure if it makes sense.

    I’m pretty sure capital punishment is to teach the perpetrator a lesson and to bring closure to the victims in a simple way while taking away the highest privilege of all – life. If anything, executing someone is just far simpler than implementing a system where the victim must live a miserable life (which people may argue is fairer in terms of retribution), hence why execution > miserable life. Only because it’s simpler and supposedly more moral (the government doesn’t want to be left in a bad light, after all)

    Basically, what I’m trying to say is that surprisingly, a lot of people would much rather see the perpetrator be sentenced to a lifetime of misery than death, as that would be the easier way out. If that were to be the new form of capital punishment, Kant’s theory would certainly not be endorsing it. Kant is simply saying that if you take the life of someone else, you better be ready to give yours up too. You don’t take what’s not yours, but if you do, you better give it back.


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