We Must Match Death with Death
For anyone living in Texas, it is common to hear about convicted criminals being sentenced to death. Is justice being served? When someone has committed a heinous murder, justice must prevail. But that ideal becomes harder to achieve as we scale the moral high ground and look all around, from behind the jail cell bars to the crushed life of the murdered victim.
The following essay will focus on the proportionality of the death sentence as a form of punishment.
First of all, if there were no persons in the world, only things, there would be no values. There are values in the world only because there are persons: people who have not only desires , but also rationality and freedom. Something is valuable only relative to a human goal. Then, as the source of values, humans have dignity, which Immanuel Kant defines in his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals as something so valuable that nothing could transcend it in worth. It follows that to be human, to have dignity, one must value above all else those things which give you dignity. This means one must value absolutely the rationality, freedom, and autonomy of oneself, but also of other individuals. However; there are some crimes, some murders, committed with such violence and complete disregard for life, that we stop valuing the rationality, the freedom, and the autonomy of the murder so highly. The question is how much do we devalue the criminal?
Kant had some ideas about how to find out the proper level of punishment. First, guilt is a necessary condition for judicial punishment. That means that only the guilty may be punished. Second, guilt is a sufficient condition for punishment. All the guilty must be punished. Lastly, the correct amount of punishment is that which is equal or proportional to the moral seriousness of the offense. Next, we must determine whether or not the death sentence is proportional to murder. To ease the flow of analysis, lets assume that it is a particularly violent and awful murder so that we can center our argumentation on the value we place on the life or the criminal and not on desert. Lets say that punishment is the only course we are going to take and the choice is between a life sentence and a death sentence. Do we value life, in the general sense, so highly that we will not kill the murderer? Those in support of a life sentence argue that life is the most...