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Captial Punishment Absolutism Denounces It

Capital Punishment

Many positions can be defended when debating the issue of capital punishment. In Jonathan Glover's essay "Executions," he maintains that there are three views that a person may have in regard to capital punishment: the retributivist, the absolutist, and the utilitarian. Although Glover recognizes that both statistical and intuitive evidence cannot validate the benefits of capital punishment, he can be considered a utilitarian because he believes that social usefulness is the only way to justify it. Martin Perlmutter on the other hand, maintains the retributivist view of capital punishment, which states that a murderer deserves to be punished because of a conscious decision to break the law with knowledge of the consequences. He even goes as far to claim that just as a winner of a contest has a right to a prize, a murderer has a right to be executed. Despite the fact that retributivism is not a position that I maintain, I agree with Perlmutter in his claim that social utility cannot be used to settle the debate about capital punishment. At the same time, I do not believe that retributivism justifies the death penalty either.

In Martin Perlmutter's essay "Desert and Capital Punishment," he attempts to illustrate that social utility is a poor method of evaluating the legitimacy of it. Perlmutter claims that a punishment must be "backward looking," meaning that it is based on a past wrongdoing. A utilitarian justification of capital punishment strays from the definition of the term "punishment" because it is "forward looking." An argument for social utility maintains that the death penalty should result in a greater good and the consequences must outweigh the harm, thereby increasing overall happiness in the world. Perlmutter recognizes the three potential benefits of a punishment as the rehabilitation of an offender, protection for other possible victims, and deterring other people from committing the same crime. The death penalty however, obviously does not rehabilitate a victim nor does it do a better job at protecting other potential victims than life imprisonment. Since a punishment must inflict harm on an individual, deterrence is the only argument that utilitarians can use to defend the death penalty. The question then arises as to whether capital punishment actually deters people from committing the same crime.

Jonathan Glover attempts to answer this question in his essay titled "Executions." According...

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