Capital punishment

Essay by eric2College, UndergraduateA, March 1995

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Thesis One: In principle a case can be made on moral grounds both supporting and opposing capital punishment.

Thesis two: Concretely and in practice, compelling arguments against capital punishment can be made on the basis of its actual administration in our society.

Two different cases can be made. One is based on justice and the nature of a moral

community. This leads to a defense of capital punishment. The second is based on love and the nature of an ideal spiritual community. This leads to a rejection of capital punishment.

A central principle of a just society is that every person

has an equal right to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' Within that framework, an argument for capital punishment can be formulated along the following lines: some acts are so vile and so destructive of community that they invalidate the right of

the perpetrator to membership and even to life.

A community founded on moral principles has certain requirements. The right to belong to a community is not unconditional. The privilege of living and pursuing the good life in society is not absolute. It may be

negated by behavior that undermines the nature of a moral community. The essential basis on which community is built requires each citizen to honor the rightful claims of others. The utter and deliberate denial of life and opportunity to others forfeits ones

own claim to continued membership in the community, whose standards

have been so flagrantly violated. The preservation of moral community demands that the shattering of the foundation of its existence must be taken with utmost seriousness. The preciousness of life in a moral community must be so highly honored that those

who do not honor the life of others make null and void their own right to membership. Those who...