The statement “an eye for an eye” comes into question in political philosophy. Can a murderer be sentenced to death? Is it murder to kill a murderer? Should all found guilty of murder be killed? It is questions like these that are asked today to decide if states should legalize capital punishment. Philosopher Immanuel Kant questioned some of these same questions when writing The Science of Right.Author’s ViewpointAuthor Immanuel Kant doesn’t argue if the death penalty is right or wrong, but instead, he argues the theory of crime and the right to punish. Kant argues:Without law, there is no state or society.
Enforcing of laws protects the state and society.Therefore, people of society who violate these laws lose their rights to be members of the society and are subject to punishment. The definition of a crime, to Kant, is a breaking of a societal law. He believes crimes can be broken down into two parts; private and public. Public crimes are crimes damaging to the whole society and private crimes are damaging to one person. Though private crimes sound more serious by his definition, he stresses that a crime is a crime whether private or public. Kant believes it is the duty of the law to punish the violators, not the victims.
He says that is a crime goes unpunished the law is weak therefore making society weak. Further, if laws aren’t enforced, then the state loses the main characteristic. Thus, the absence means there’s no state. Punishments specific basis is a crime.
Kant says, “He must first be found guilty and punishable, before there can be any thought of drawing from his Punishment any benefit for himself or his fellow-citizens” (Liberty fund). A person must be brought in front of a jury and found guilty before they are punished. A person cannot merely be punished to set an example for the rest of society otherwise punishment would lose its criminal basis. If this was true, then punishments basis would be benefit.
A punishment must serve as a penalty not a way to scare someone or others. Though Kant expresses his concerns for the “Like with Like” principle, he firmly believes people who commit murder should be subjected to capital punishment; “But whoever has committed murder, must die” (Liberty fund). He also states the murderer’s death “must be kept free from maltreatment” (Liberty fund). He argues that if we don’t punish a murderer by death, then we are no more than an accomplice to their crime.
He believes there is nothing more punishing in life than death. Kant thinks that if the death penalty doesn’t exist, then the only other option is life in prison. He expressed the problems with giving murders life imprisonment with an example; “Now, suppose that the Judgment of the Supreme Court regarding them had been this: that everyone should have the liberty to choose between the punishment of Death or Penal Servitude for life. In view of such an alternative, I say that the Man of Honour would choose Death, and the Knave would choose servitude” (Liberty fund). He states the honorable man cares more about his honor than life and the Knave cares more about life than being shamed. This seems like it would make the death punishment more severe to the “Knave” than to the other. On the other hand, life imprisonment would be more severe to the “Man of Honor.
” Kant concludes, “the best equalizer of punishment… is death” (Liberty fund). Kant also begins to outline certain crimes like someone killing the someone in a duel or a mother killing her child to avoid shame as a murderous crime that deserves less of a punishment than death. He justifies this by saying that in a duel the men were trying to protect one’s dignity, honor, and life. A mother that kills her accidental child she has before she gets married is trying to protect herself and the baby from societal ridicule. He also says that lawmakers cannot be involved in crimes and if they are then their worst punishment can only be resignation. My OpinionI agree with most of what Kant expresses about crime, punishment, and the death penalty.
His definition of crime and how crime relates to punishment is easily agreeable to because of his explanations. I agree with his stressing of punishing criminals. He states that a criminal must always be punished because if they aren’t then it shows an absence of justice. He says that punishment must have the basis of crime and not example. From my understanding, this is because if punishment has a basis for setting an example, then any innocent, non-lawbreaking, person could be punished to prevent them from ever committing a crime.
I’m not too sure if I completely agree with this. When it comes to the death penalty, punishment is not only a way to get justice for the victim, but also a way to warn other people that if they kill someone then they are just killing themselves too. Another part I don’t agree with is when he said that certain murder crimes should have a lighter sentence. He gave two examples: a man in a duel and a mother with her baby.
In my opinion, murder is murder. Today, if two men got into a fight and one ended up killing the other, it would be murder. If a mother kills her birthed child because she accidentally got pregnant, it would be murder. If he wants to maintain his statement about how all criminals need to be punished, then people committing murders should be sentenced to the death penalty, too.
If he thinks all murders should be punished by death, then picking and choosing certain murder situations for pardon cannot happen. Same goes for when he expressed his views on criminal lawmakers. I believe these people should have equal punishment as the rest of society.
If they commit a murder than they should be subjected to the death penalty too. They are in positions of power and if anything holding them to the standard is important.Immanuel Kant wrote his idea of the death penalty around 1790 and still today it is discussed. He didn’t argue if it was right or wrong instead, he explored the basis of crime and punishment then connected it to the death penalty. He strongly believes all murderers should be killed except for a few exceptions.
I only partly agree with him due to my beliefs on equal punishments for same crimes, no matter who one is in society. I think this ideal is important because it promotes equality and fairness.