Philosophy midterm #1

Philosophy midterm #1 - Professor Yaffe 9 October 2007 PHIL...

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Professor Yaffe 9 October 2007 PHIL 140g Exam #1 The death penalty is often criticized for the “arbitrariness” with which it is carried out: that is, out of a group of select criminals who have committed heinous crimes which constitute the death penalty, only a handful of these have actually been executed. Nathanson objects to Van de Haag’s view that arbitrariness in capital punishment plays no factor in whether or not it should continue to be administered. In addition, Nathanson believes that the death penalty is not entirely arbitrary and that irrelevant factors contribute to deciding who deserves to be punished, thus making the death penalty unjust. To understand Nathanson’s argument, we must first fully understand Van de Haag’s position why he believes the death penalty should be kept. Van den Haag’s Argument Van den Haag claims that the issue of whether or not it is “just” to execute someone is based on a person’s desert, lets call person A, and that person’s desert alone. Whether or not other people are executed for the same crime is irrelevant, as it does not change the fact that person A committed a heinous crime. In his argument, Van de Haag defines “just” on the principle of punishment: it is just when someone is deserves punishment for crime and gets punished, and conversely, it is unjust when someone deserves punishment for a crime and does not get punished. Van den Haag believes the concept of lex talionis , that is, in order to give the victim justice, we must make sure that the criminal we punish suffers at a level which is proportionate to the level of suffering to which he caused his victim. Any more would be cruel and unusual punishment, while any less would be an injustice to the victim of the crime. A large critique of the death penalty is that it arbitrarily executes some and not others, even though they have committed equally heinous crimes. As a result, these arbitrary selections are unjust and call for the abolishment of the death penalty. Although
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Philosophy midterm #1 - Professor Yaffe 9 October 2007 PHIL...

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