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Capital Punishment

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Capital Punishment

Capital punishment, according to Collins dictionary, is “punishment of death for a crime”. Capital punishment is an eternal concept that has clung to humanity throughout all civilisations. There are a few forms of Capital punishment but the general themes are the same. I am going to focus on the metaphysical side of the debate rather than the moral one.

My first argument for capital punishment takes its roots from Kant’s second maxim of the categorical imperative which itself stemmed from deontology; the maxim states that all actions are the ends to an action, never the means. This means that you cannot imprison someone because they’ve killed someone as that is a separate action from the crime and so what you are doing is wrong. Imprisoning someone is cruel and so it should not be done. This ties in with capital punishment as Epicurean hedonism states that death is not a bad thing as the deceased probably won’t care. However, if killing someone is not morally wrong then what would you be punishing the person for?

Another interesting argument for capital punishment concerns whether it is possible to kill someone. Cartesian dualism states that upon what we would call death, the ethereal part of a human is transported to a different dimension, so what would you be killing? Also bundle theory states that nothing exists, and that things are just the projections of their properties onto our world. This makes the point at which something dies much harder to establish as they probably doesn’t exist. Thus if you are wondering what the issues with capital punishment are and the main one is the issue of killing someone, then this argument is void as it’s impossible to kill someone who doesn’t exist. This, by the way, is the main basis for solipsism.

Hume, and many other empiricists, taught of metaphysical scepticism whereby he argues that nobody exists, he was the one who invented bundle theory. Solipsism is the ideology whereby the only thing that can exist is the brain as the only place we get our information from is our senses. However, our senses are fallible, as explained by pins and needles and the rubber hand illusion. As our senses are fallible we cannot determine what is true. A conclusion that we can deduce from this is that the only thing we know to exist is our brains as they must exist for us to be asking these questions. This lead to Descartes’ famous “I think therefore I am”. This does not, however, necessitate the existence of other people. Therefore if you can wonder whether or not it is ethical to kill then they probably don’t exist. Although, it’s logical that no-one can exist, it does make it problematic to live a meaningful life.

 The primary argument against capital punishment comes from John Locke who suggested the principle of separation of powers whereby the state, judicial system and religion should be separate. This means that the state cannot commit crimes against anyone, no matter what the offender has done; this makes the idea of deterrence challenging. However, my previous point still stands that it cannot be wrong to kill someone as the victim is not wronged and so why couldn’t the state implement capital punishment?

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