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Kant's Views on Capital Punishment

To determine if Immanuel Kant's purely retributive view of capital punishment is consistent with his view of regarding persons as ends in themselves, a discussion of Kant's moral philosophy must be provided. Moral law is formulated by Kant as based upon the "categorical imperative" (Solomon and Higgins 212). This represents a singular command that applies across the entire range of human behavior. The categorical imperative, according to the best-known formulation, asserts that "one should only act on a maxim that one can will to be universal law" (Solomon and Higgins 212). The moral law, then, is summarized as follows: One always ought to act so as to treat humanity, in oneself and another, as an end in itself, and not as a mere means. In this sense, capital punishment would seem to use an individual as some form of means for achieving the end of exacting justice.

Despite this view, Kant believes in an eye-for-an-eye type of morality with respect to use of capital punishment. He argues that when the crime is murder, capital punishment is the only retribution proportional to the severity of the crime. Within his argument is the belief that human beings have a right to retaliation when harmed by others. This analysis will offer a discussion of Kant's moral philosophy and his views on capital punishment. The views of Albert Camus, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, will also be offered. A conclusion will assess whether Kant's views on the morality of capital punishment are a contradiction to his main moral assertion that it is always wrong to treat individuals as some form of means or instrument to an end.

Kant believes it is wrong to treat individuals as a means or instrument to an end, primarily because it robs the individual of his or her inherent dignity - dignity derived from the fact that he or she is capable of acting freely in accordance with the dictates of reason and morality. I...

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Kant's Views on Capital Punishment. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 13:37, May 19, 2019, from https://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/2000253.html