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Essay on The Moral Disagreement on Capital Punishment (Death Penalty)

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Using Democratic Deliberation to Resolve the Moral Disagreement on Capital Punishment (Death Penalty)


Common American experience seems to suggest that a solution to every dilemma can be found through enough lobbying, legislating, media-blitzing or politicking. We often believe that the person arguing most eloquently, reasonably or forcefully will win every dispute, yet there are times when this optimism fails. Despite great efforts to show the strength of a position, there are arguments that we cannot untangle simply by proving our right and another's wrong. Some moral questions permit such different outlooks that holders of completely opposing views can both be morally sound. Rather than trying to reason away one side we can only hope to understand each position well enough to acknowledge its critical elements and keep bitter dissension to a minimum.

    Even with the most fundamental moral differences, we are often forced to make clear, unwavering decisions. Amidst a roar of incompatible claims about the need to protect the lives of fetuses and the freedoms of women, policy makers must conclusively decide if abortions will be legally available. Neither years of careful thought nor months of ferocious debate will yield an objectively right answer-some other method is clearly needed. The deliberative technique proposed here does not give automatic answers, but it does provide progress towards making hard choices.

    This idea of democratic deliberation does not demand that all 270 million US citizens enter into debate or cast votes in binding referendum. Such a large and varied state makes this impossible and less obviously, such stark majoritarianism also ignores the positions of a substantial minority. In efforts t...


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...tive discourse has a natural tendency to make the decision-making process more inclusive by embracing a wider field of views, whether they be of students, philosophers or Death Row inmates.

    Clearly this method is not foolproof or universally applicable, yet deliberation is valuable for the simple reason that at its core, it is "a form of agreeing to disagree." In many cases of deliberation there will be no obvious compromise to include all views so the most we can hope for is to accommodate the most strongly held points of each. Some groups will always be dissatisfied but we can try to limit the amount of moral discord created. Though we can disagree on opinions, there is little we can say or do to unsanctifiy one's beliefs. Moral stances should not be silenced, but instead must be accounted for, as can be done within a framework of democratic deliberation.


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