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Capital Punishment

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[edit] Utilitarianism

Utilitarian arguments for the death penalty generally focus on its deterrence effect; that is, people commit fewer murders because they fear being punished with the death penalty (See #Deterrence, prevention, and economics section in this article). If more than one life is saved because of deterrence for every execution, all else equal the death penalty is justified. Utilitarians need not agree with the death penalty, however; they may argue that the evidence does not support the existence of a deterrent effect, or that there is another negative effect which balances out the deterrent effect of course. For example, the brutalizing effect (see #Brutalizing effect on this page) might make people in general less respectful of life or cause life in the society less pleasant. This is a negative effect which might outweigh any deterrent effect in a utilitarian calculation, especially if the latter is relatively small.

Many argue that there are advantages of looking at capital punishment from a utilitarian perspective, that is, one which looks at costs and benefits for human welfare. The deontological debate helps to clarify the respective positions of the debate, but offers no way to reach consensus because each argument stands on different a priori ground. Similarly, legal argument can clarify a priori legal or constitutional grounds of the death penalty. However, it offers no insight over whether such law or constitutional clause can be justified on its merit. A utilitarian approach is attractive because the issue is more easily resolved through the examination of empirical evidence, such as evidence about the penalty's effectiveness as a deterrent. Opponents of the utilitarian approach argue that it is flawed for the very reason that it does not take into consideration the complicating ideas which deontology



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