Phoenix Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board Socrates Cafe Philosophy Discussion in Tempe Discussion Forum › Socrates Cafe Summary: Who Should Get the Death Penalty?

Socrates Cafe Summary: Who Should Get the Death Penalty?

Jack
Moliere
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 35
I was making reference to Steven's mode of argument
I understand that. However, you state "Speaking of absurdities..." which means you think the next thing you're going to discuss is also absurd.

Whose argument do you think is absurd?
Instead of the German civilian population, would your argument hold the German military accountable? Should they all be executed? How about those directly working in the concentration camps? How about those clerks back in Berlin doing all the paperwork to keep those trains moving with shipments of Jews to be killed. Or do you only hold the specific person that pushed the button to release the gas as responsible and therefore should be executed. Not their Superiors giving the orders? Certainly Steven took the extreme example of talking about the entire German population so I want to know where you draw the line in your desire for a Death Penalty against those who were connected to the murder of 6 million Jews.


You didn't answer my question as to why it would be fair to kill in self-defense. All you did was describe the circumstances where you would assert it was morally justified (e.g. immediate threat to your life, intent is NOT to kill).
You asked me under which ethical approach I would hold my position. I stated the Virtue approach. Therefore my arguments are coming from a moral justification. Why are you holding me to your ethical approach of fairness? I disagree with the Fairness approach because it comes across as Vengeance.

From Milan Kundera's "The Joke":
And then there's the bond I tried to use as a link with the past that hypnotizes me, the bond of vengeance; unfortunately, vengeance, as I have discovered for myself these past few days, is as cain as my backward race. Yes, the day when Zemanek did his recitation from Fucik's Notes from the Gallows in the lecture hall - that was the time for me to go up to him and punch him in the nose, then and only then. When vengeance is tabled, it turns into an illusion, a personal religion, a myth which recedes day by day from its cast of characters, who remain the same in the myth of vengeance, while in reality they have changed radically: today another Jahn stands before another Zemanek, and the blow I still owe him is beyond resurrection or reconstruction, is lost once and for all.

I'm still waiting for you to respond to The Innocence Project exonerating 16 Death Row inmates. How do these innocent victims work into your Fairness of murdering murderers? How many others have the State murdered before we developed DNA technology? How many innocent people have we killed in our quest for fairness and revenge?
David W.
david_weston
Tempe, AZ
Post #: 145
You didn't answer my question as to why it would be fair to kill in self-defense. All you did was describe the circumstances where you would assert it was morally justified (e.g. immediate threat to your life, intent is NOT to kill).
You asked me under which ethical approach I would hold my position. I stated the Virtue approach. Therefore my arguments are coming from a moral justification. Why are you holding me to your ethical approach of fairness?
You were the one who included fairness in your definition of the Virtue approach. I guess you no longer consider it a virtue because it supports both killing in self-defense and capital punishment.

Don't you think that of the five ethical approaches, the Virtue approach is the least workable/convincing because there is no universal agreement on what constitutes "moral excellence"? The religious approach to morality is a Virtue approach: each religious group defining goodness and rightness by the values of their ideal/God. In using the Virtue approach, aren't you simply asserting that what is right is what you idolize? How are your ideals better than those of any religion? Why should I value what you value when we debate the right response to murder?
Jack
Moliere
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 36
You were the one who included fairness in your definition of the Virtue approach.
Actually, all I did was quote in total the definition provided by the website you linked for the 5 ethical approaches. I think its a little misleading for you to jump on that single word "Fairness" as the definition of the Virtue approach when one of the 5 ethical approaches by itself is "The Fairness or Justice Approach". If Fairness is included in the Virtue approach why separate it out into its own category as one of the 5?

Don't you think that of the five ethical approaches, the Virtue approach is the least workable/convincing because there is no universal agreement on what constitutes "moral excellence"? The religious approach to morality is a Virtue approach: each religious group defining goodness and rightness by the values of their ideal/God. In using the Virtue approach, aren't you simply asserting that what is right is what you idolize? How are your ideals better than those of any religion? Why should I value what you value when we debate the right response to murder?
Is it Fair that you ask me four additional questions without answering my previous questions? Who do you hold responsible for the death of 6 million Jews, i.e., which should be considered murderers and killed? Four times I have mentioned the Innocence Project and 3 times I have specifically asked you how these exonerated Death Row inmates fall into your desire for a Death Penalty. How can you justify committing murder when innocent people are being convicted?
David W.
david_weston
Tempe, AZ
Post #: 148
I think its a little misleading for you to jump on that single word "Fairness" as the definition of the Virtue approach when one of the 5 ethical approaches by itself is "The Fairness or Justice Approach". If Fairness is included in the Virtue approach why separate it out into its own category as one of the 5?
By selecting the Virtue approach, you set a high standard for yourself, because how could a virtuous person not accept the other ethical approaches?

Is it Fair that you ask me four additional questions without answering my previous questions? Who do you hold responsible for the death of 6 million Jews, i.e., which should be considered murderers and killed?
From the Wikipedia entry on Murder: "In common law jurisdictions, murder has two elements or parts: 1. the act (actus reus) of killing a person. 2. the state of mind (mens rea) of intentional, purposeful, malicious, premeditated, and/or wanton." Given this definition, I would consider those who directly and intentionally participated in the killing of innocent Jews as eligible for the death penalty.

Four times I have mentioned the Innocence Project and 3 times I have specifically asked you how these exonerated Death Row inmates fall into your desire for a Death Penalty. How can you justify committing murder when innocent people are being convicted?
That's like asking how can I justify alcohol consumption when innocent people die in drunk driving accidents. Since that's using the Utilitarian ethical approach (i.e. weighing costs and benefits), mistaken convictions of the innocent would only be one of many costs and benefits to consider. I would argue that jury mistakes are lower in death penalty cases as compared to other cases because the stakes are higher. If the death sentence were no longer an option in murder cases, don't you think that would increase the number of innocent convicted because juries could rationalize that the consequences of a mistaken verdict are lower?

I am open to changing my position on the death penalty. Since you're a libertarian, what would be the punishment for murder in a libertarian society and how would that punishment be justified?
Jack
Moliere
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 38
That's like asking how can I justify alcohol consumption when innocent people die in drunk driving accidents.
Not really. Alcohol consumption doesn't kill innocent people in drunk driving accidents. Its only those acting irresponsibly by drinking too much that cause a problem. That's true of every single object in the world. If I beat you across the head with a book you don't get rid of all books. You stop the person who is acting irresponsibly.

Since that's using the Utilitarian ethical approach (i.e. weighing costs and benefits), mistaken convictions of the innocent would only be one of many costs and benefits to consider. I would argue that jury mistakes are lower in death penalty cases as compared to other cases because the stakes are higher. If the death sentence were no longer an option in murder cases, don't you think that would increase the number of innocent convicted because juries could rationalize that the consequences of a mistaken verdict are lower?
I'm not making a Utilitarian argument. This pragmatic argument that juries make fewer mistakes in a death penalty case is quite scary. Juries can make mistakes, act irrationally or just be plain stupid. I don't see how you can so casually condone the death penalty when innocent people are being sent to their death by the State.

I am open to changing my position on the death penalty. Since you're a libertarian, what would be the punishment for murder in a libertarian society and how would that punishment be justified?
Life in prison. Its justified because someone convicted of a crime has demonstrated that they are not willing to follow that society's rules. The group/tribe/society has a right to remove someone from the group/tribe/society that is a danger to that community.
Steven
user 5850541
Austin, TX
Post #: 179
I take a libertarian approach, politically speaking. If "justice" is the virtue you seek to pursue with the death penalty, I would argue that human "virtue" undermines the pursuit of justice in this context. Why? Many, many juries cannot assess the death penalty - when it comes to pulling the trigger, most people cannot do it. People have been socialized to believe killing is wrong outside the context of the fight-or-flight of self-defense. As a result, very few convicted murderers receive the death penalty, and of those that do, they are hardly the "worst" of offenders - rather, the results of arbitrary at best, and demographically-biased at worst.

One solution would be to impose a rule where all capital murders (i.e., murder + some aggravating circumstance) are subject to the death penalty. But that approach was struck down by the Supreme Court - on the grounds that "death is different" (as a punishment) and there must be an individualized determination of the mitigating circumstances for each defendant. Unfortunately, what you get with an individualized approach are arbitrary results - e.g., prosecutors who can get the trigger-person to rat on the other participants to cop a life deal and death sentences for those who did not actually kill anyone.

I take an absolute approach, morally/ethically speaking. First of all, I do not believe "justice" is an individual virtue - if justice is anything, it is nothing more than a piece of the fabric that keeps society together. In terms of separating what is moral v. societal, I would invoke the words of Jesus Christ (although I am not a Christian) - "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's." Second, as far as I am concerned, intentional homicide is never ok. So in jury voir dire on a capital case, my answer would be, "No, I cannot follow the law and sentence someone to death."

The question I always get in response to this position is - "Am I morally justified in killing another person in self-defense?" I look at it this way - if I am in imminent danger of serious harm and my instincts force me to kill another person to save myself, then I didn't really have a true "choice" - the id would probably supercede the superego. Although I have never experienced that (and probably never will), I would guess that I am likely to suffer psychological harm from the experience, no matter how many people (who have never lived through that experience) tell me I am justified to act in self-defense. My instinctual imperative would probably supercede my moral imperative, but that hypothetical does not change my moral position.
A former member
Post #: 1
5. OPTIONS: Currently, the following crimes qualify for the death penalty under U.S. federal, state, or military laws: a) First degree murder, which is murder with intent to kill or participation in a felony where murder occurred. b) Treason, which is aiding an enemy of the nation. c) Espionage, which is spying on behalf of a nation's enemies. d) Rape, which is a capital crime in six U.S. states. e) Aggravated kidnapping. f) Aircraft hijacking. g) Military cowardice, desertion, mutiny, or insubordination. Since we were running out of time, the group agreed to only consider whether first degree murder was acceptable under all five ethical approaches to be punished by death.

This is incorrect information. There are a few states with laws on the books with regard to "child rape" only. In the 1977 Supreme Court opinion of Coker v. Georgia, the high court held that the death penalty for a rape was a disproportionate punishment for the crime. However, LA, TX, GA, FL, MT, SC, & OK have child rape death penalty statutes on their books. However, Louisiana convicted and sentences to death Patrick Kennedy who brutally raped his 8 year old step-daughter. The US Supreme Court struck the punishment on June 25, 2008 as being unconstitutional. Additionally the death penalty for kidnapping has been limited to cases where someone was actually killed in the process of the committing the feloy. The Supreme Court seems to be reiterating the idea that the death is reserved for cases in which someone actually is killed. "An eye for an eye."
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