Capital Punishment: for and Against

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Capital Punishment: For and Against 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…show more content…
All this is indefensible on moral grounds. To make sense of this, it is helpful to distinguish between an ethical dimension of love and an ecstatic dimension. Love as an ethical ideal seeks a community based on mutuality and reciprocity in which there is an equality of giving and receiving. Mutual love has a justice element in which every person has an equal claim to fulfillment and an equal duty to be responsible. Ethical love is unconditional and will reach out to others even when they lack merit. But it will resist encroachment upon its own equal claim to fulfillment and will repel if possible any denial of ones own right to be fully human in every respect. Against the pacifist, ethical love would justify killing in self-defense and killing enemies in a just war when non-lethal alternatives are unavailable. They are necessary and tragic emergency means here and now to stop present and ongoing violence. Capital punishment is opposed since the crime has already been committed, and isolation can protect society against future violence. Love in the ecstatic dimension becomes superethical. In ecstasy one is delirious with impetuous joy in the presence of the other and totally devoted to that person's happiness and well- being. In ecstasy we do not count the cost to ourselves but are totally self-giving, heedless of our own needs. In this mood sacrifice for the other is not an ethical act of self-denial but the superethical expression of what we most want to do.
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