Capital Punishment Ethics

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One circumstance to try to morally justify capital punishment could be if someone committed mass murder. For example, the shooting in Parkland FL, where Nicholas Cruz walked into a school and murdered seventeen people. People all around who were affected by this would morally justify capital punishment for Cruz considering he took the lives of seventeen other humans. This could go for anyone that has committed mass murder. He took 17 innocent lives, lives that had just begun and lives that had not been fully fulfilled in the killed and in the family's eyes.

Another circumstance in which capital punishment could be justified is in the case of rape or any sort of sexual abuse. As a woman, it is important to know that in the case of rape that justice would be served. I am not saying a man rapes one woman he should get the death sentence but there are cases where a man kills and rapes multiple women. In that situation, a man is taking things away from a woman such as security and in that case, they should pay. They are taking something away from the women, so we should take something away from them.

Another reason could be in the case of treason or espionage. In a reason situation it is putting our nation in danger and ultimately it is deemed as one live over millions of lives.

Overall the justifications that come into play for capital punishment would be in the case of mass shootings, mass sexual abuse, as well as treason and espionage of any sort. All of these would involve mass numbers of people and the invasion of safety or security which could be justifications that are found within the bigger justifications.

Within the viewpoints of virtue ethics, it uses the motivations and the consequences to decide morality. Virtue ethics would ultimately find capital punishment to be immoral and wrong. The main virtues we discussed were courage, ambition, tolerance, compassion, honesty, loyalty, and justice. While using capital punishment as punishment towards a crime can be seen as an option because it serves justice to the victim and the victim's family it adds more to the situation that needs to be thought about such as the executioner's position and feelings as well as the criminal’s family and their thoughts and feelings.

Just because it is getting justice for one side it creates a new issue for the other side. Within virtue ethics, it states that we must achieve a Golden Mean which is a state of balance that keeps from having too much and too little of virtues but in this situation, there would not be a balance meaning it lacks the Golden Mean. There is not a balance between the vices of deficiency and excess and that is what the Golden Mean is. Another thing to think about within virtue ethics is it must protect something worthwhile and you would have to weigh is it worthwhile to save the criminals live or is it worthwhile for the criminal to die. While it may be deemed as worthwhile for them to die with capital punishment there would be things that need to be weighed.


  • Justice needs to be served to the family or whomever they have affected.
  • If they are subjected to capital punishment to create justice, it may not create closure for those affected.


  • The criminal may create tolerance to living in a prison or jail cell not allowing them to full think about what they have done. If they are subjected to live in a cell after a while they become accustomed to cell life.
  • The victims would have to create tolerance of the criminal still being around but then if the criminal is killed under capital punishment everyone involved has become tolerant of the situation they are a part of.


  • Those in charge of the cases must keep in mind the compassion for victims but on the other hand have to have compassion for those loved ones of the criminal. If the criminal is killed with the death penalty or capital punishment comes into play for their case their loved ones will be affected mentally by the death of their loved one.


  • There are many times cases that are of multiple occurrence, so the law has to have loyalty to the law. They need to make sure if similar cases come in they get dealt with in the same way to ensure loyalty to the law they are subjected to obey.

According to Kant and his beliefs that began deontology beliefs and studies the idea of duty and obligation. Due to his views, we feel as if Deontology would not allow capital punishment and would ultimately think of it as being immoral. Deontology focuses on the intent rather than to the consequences. Consequences are not bound by the right or wrong but rather that ethics is bound by duty. It can be seen that the law or government have a duty to a victim or the victim family as they have been affected. We could see Kant viewing capital punishment as by killing the prisoner, it causes the prisoner's or criminals family and even friends to become victims themselves if they go ahead with capital punishment but then, on the other hand, he could argue that capital punishment is moral by saying that it is for the families of the victims to seek the criminal’s life for the loss of their loved one's life.

That could be seen as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth which is not one of Kant's philosophies. Another reason why it can be seen why Kant would not agree with capital punishment is that he believes in the universal principle. With universal principle it would make with capital punishment always right or always wrong and it is virtually impossible for something to be completely wrong or right it depends ultimately on the situation and what type of criminal activity and who was involved. We can not properly analyze and look at every case the same because murder and piracy are on different sides of spectrum and would not be dealt with the same which is against Kant's theory he believes all crime should be dealt the same and each crime and case would have different aspects and nuances making it hard to deal with them all the same.

My view on capital punishment is that it is okay in certain circumstances, but there are instances where it would be worse to the person getting punished if they just spent the rest of their lives rotting in a cell and waiting to die in that cell. Killing them could be something that is viewed as a good thing to them. They could believe that they are going to 'the afterlife' and being 'forgiven' for everything they did to get them the death penalty, which could ultimately give that personal satisfaction. I wouldn't necessarily say that capital punishment is moral, but in certain cases, it could be necessary.

The views of both the philosophers are different in many ways to mine. If anything, we talked about Sarte in class and he believes action is everything. In my opinion depending on the crime committed is how I would determine if capital punishment is an appropriate punishment making the action speak louder than any words it would ultimately come down to the action . There are different ways of how thoughts were gathered and about how it would affect different people. I think that in the case of it being mostly immoral is where there are most similarities as well as using the virtue ethics of justice but that is about all and a very fatal and small similarity. While this is my own view on capital punishment it is not a way to determine if it is ethically right or wrong because ethics is not law/legality, culture/religion, popular opinion, or personal opinion.  

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Capital Punishment Ethics. (2021, Apr 23). Retrieved July 20, 2024 , from

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