A Debate of the Death Penalty

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The death penalty raises important questions about the right to life, who has a right to life, and under what circumstances a right to life can be taken away. I believe there are no circumstances under which capital punishment is justified. I will proceed to defend my claim that capital punishment is unjustified by arguing a position that killing is wrong because it deprives individuals of valuable futures. To support my thesis that capital punishment is not justified, I will expand upon an argument made my Don Marquis in his essay “Why Abortion is Immoral” in which he argues that killing is immoral on the grounds that it deprives human beings of a valuable future. My argument is as follows: 1. Killing is wrong because it deprives the victim of his or her future. 2. Death row criminals are in the same moral category as other human beings with respect to the moral value of their lives. 3. The future of a criminal on death row is just as valuable as the future of a human being not on death row. 4. Any form of capital punishment is a form of killing. 5. Therefore, because killing is wrong, killing by capital punishment is also wrong under every circumstance. My first premise states that killing is wrong because it deprives the victim of his or her future. Just as Marquis argues that abortion is wrong because it is killing an individual and depriving him or her of a valuable future, I argue that capital punishment is wrong because it too involves killing and depriving an individual of a valuable future. Marquis states, “When I am killed, I am deprived both of what I now value which would have been part of my future personal life, but also what I would come to value” (322). The value of an individual’s future is a subjective term.... ... middle of paper ... ...nal Research Council) or the possibility of a criminal committing a future crime. Thus, we do not have a successful method to determine if harm will be caused to society and, in accordance with Mill’s Harm Principle, we cannot administer the death penalty because there is no harm done to society. Consequently, these objections do not hold up under scrutiny, and my conclusion is reinforced. Thus, capital punishment is not justifiable under any circumstance because it is killing, and killing is wrong because it deprives an individual of a valuable future. Works Cited National Research Council. Last modified: 18 April 2012. Accessed 18 November 2013. Philosophy Department. Oregon State University. Accessed 18 November 2013.

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