Ethical Issues and the Death Penalty
Ethical Issues and the Death Penalty

Ethical Issues and the Death Penalty

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 3 (1450 words)
  • Published: November 20, 2021
Text preview


Most countries in the contemporary world agree to some form of legal punishment for people found guilty of various crimes. Major crimes like death are punished by death or corporal punishment in some of these countries. According to Vaughn (2015), the moral and legal justification of the death penalty has attracted differing opinions between opponents and proponents of the issue. Different theorists hold different opinions over the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the issue. The theories base their support or opposition for corporal punishments on the morality of the practice. However, the natural legal law theory argues that the practice does not rely on the moral rightfulness but rather the legal implications.

Primary List

Utilitarian Ethics

Utilitarian theorists are among the few supporters of the death penalty. Utilitarian theorists argue that corporal punishment is ethically justified because it produces a balance between good and evil. Utilitarian theorists argue that corporal punishment is the best moral action for major crimes, and that it maximizes utility. Further, utilitarian theorists base their argument on the idea that consequences for actions are the only standard of right or wrong.


Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics links moral rightness to virtuousness, proposing that we do actions that are morally right. On the issue of corporal punishment, virtue ethics struggle to determine the rightfulness and wrongfulness of the practice. Though the theory agrees that crime is not virtuous, it does not agree that a person should be killed because of a single crime. Regarding this, the theory looks into the entire life of the convicted person, and not just the wrongfulness of the crime they committed. Therefore, the theory opposes the moral rightfulness of the death penalty.

Traditional Theories

Ethical Egoism

Ethical egoism is one of the theories that focus on the self as the sole cause of our actions. The theory argues that criminals commit crimes for their own benefits. Believers of ethical egoism support the practice of death penalty, arguing that the individual is ready to face the consequences. Ethical egoism creates the notion of every man for himself. Therefore, the theory appears to support the death penalty, since it is a way of allowing the criminal to be held accountable for their crimes (Van and Conrad, 2013).
Ethical egoism argues that people are selfish, doing what they do so that they can benefit. Regarding the death penalty, criminals do not have the interests of their victims when they assault or harm them. In the same way they fail to consider their safety, the criminals should be willing and ready to suffer their consequences.

Natural Law Theory

The natural law theory denies the moral rightfulness of the death penalty, arguing that it is not in human nature to kill fellow beings. Natural law theory bases its argument from the realization that human beings derive their morality from nature of the world. Also, the morality is derived, in part, from the nature of human beings over history. Therefore, natural law theorists argue that peopl

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay
View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

should believe in what the nature supports and allows rather than make their own laws because they feel the pressure to do so. According to Vaughn (2015), the practice was started as people felt the pressure to punish committers of big crimes such as murder. However, this decision was not instigated by nature but rather by human conception. Therefore, natural law theorists argue that the death penalty is not morally justified because it defies the nature of human kind to coexist in peace. Instead of the death penalty, the natural law theory proposes other solutions such as creation of peaceful coexistence between people so that the cases of murder and heinous crimes will reduce.

There has been a prevalent division between natural law theorists. The two groups of natural law theorists are the natural law legal theorists and the natural law moral theorists. The later believe that the rightfulness of an action depends on its moral impact. On the other hand, the natural law legal theorists believe that the legal validity of an action does not have to abide to moral conformity rules. Therefore, these two groups of natural law theory would argue over the legal and moral rightfulness of the death penalty (Beim and Kastellec, 2014). In this aspect, the natural law moral theorists would oppose its practice based on the moral impact it has on the society. Still, the natural law legal theorists would oppose it based on the argument that the practice does not offer justice but revenge for the victim and the legal system.

Contemporary List

African Ethics

African countries are among the most opposed to the practice of corporal punishment. African countries adopt the practice from western legal advisories and agreements they make with international bodies for peace and safety. However, African countries are embracing their African ethics and seeking for other methods to punish crime other than death. For example, countries such as Nigeria signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Van and Conrad, 2013). This document was an agreement between member states that they would not allow death penalties to be issued by their judicial systems. The agreement was partly based on the African ethics theory. The theory proposes more African modes of punishment that promote the wellbeing of the community. Traditionally, Africans used other methods that were also very efficient in punishing crimes and warning others not to engage in crime.

The African countries are known to be among the most cultural. The legal systems of African countries are significantly influenced by their culture. In this regard, the issue of death penalty is receiving much resentment from African traditional leaders who see the practice as a lack of respect for human life. Also, the African ethics theory proposes that punishment by death is not a solution to crime. Instead, the practice has the potential to create enemy among families and clans. The African ethics are a major contributing factor to the statistics on death penalty cases in the continent. According to a report by the Mail and Guardia Africa, about 2,466 people had been sentenced to death in 2014. Out of these, 1168

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay