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Essay about Kant and Mill’s Positions on Capital Punishment

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Capital punishment is most commonly known as the death penalty or punishment by death for a crime. It is a highly controversial topic and many people and great thinkers alike have debated about it. Two well-known figures are Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. Although both stand in favor of capital punishment, their reasons for coming to this conclusion are completely different. I personally stand against capital punishment, but my own personal view on it incorporates a few mixed elements from both individuals as well as my own personal insight. Firstly, in order to understand why Kant and Mill support capital punishment, we must first understand their views on punishment in general.
Kant believes in the theory of the categorical imperative, which states that people should “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” (Kant 31) In other words, people should act only in such a way that their actions can become a law that can be applied universally (to everyone). In The Metaphysics of Morals, Kant’s definition of a crime is any act that violates the public law (Kant 105) and the right to punish is “the right a ruler has against a subject to inflict pain upon him because of his having committed a crime.” (Kant 104) According to Kant, laws exist to protect society. Without them, society cannot exist and, thus, they must be enforced in a way such that people who follow the laws are considered members of society, and people that violate the laws lose their right to be members of society and, therefore, must be punished. The level of punishment that should be advocated towards the criminal should be equivalent to the severity of the crime. Simply put, “an eye for an...


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...places a person’s dignity and honor before life, while Mill places society’s happiness before all else. For Kant, capital punishment serves to preserve the dignity of an individual, while for Mill, capital punishment is used to protect society’s overall happiness. If it were up to you, which side would you take on capital punishment? Kant and Mill raise good questions and points in their perspective arguments, but there are too many contradictions for me to defend on either one of their points of views. I stand against capital punishment.



Works Cited

Kant, Immanuel, and Mary J. Gregor. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.
Kant, Immanuel, and Mary J. Gregor. The Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. Print.
Mill, John Stuart, and George Sher. Utilitarianism. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2001. Print.


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