PART 4: CONCLUSIONS
Ultimately, Nathanson infers that abolishing the death penalty is key to sustaining a moral, enlightened future for all of mankind. Nathanson writes in An Eye for an Eye?,
“If we take the life of a criminal, we convey the idea that by his deeds he has made himself worthless and totally without human value. I do not believe that we are in a position to affirm that of anyone… When he no longer poses a threat to anyone, we ought not to take his life”
Nathanson does agree with Kant when it comes to the being who committed the act in turn forfeits some rights by breaking the law, but not all of them. Especially not the one sacred right that belongs to all humans… aka the right to a basic life. No one in this world has the right to tell someone that their life is lesser than another. Additionally, actions may display certain characteristics but it certainly does not define a being’s entire journey to personhood. A person’s life is something that no one ought to take away. The ultimate wrong-doing is to take a life of an innocent. Just because a criminal commits an act does not mean that we should act back on it. There is a saying that two wrongs do not make a right and this is true. By killing someone for retribution, the act of murder becomes acceptable and available in the eyes of the world. Additionally, people living in modern day society are very inconsistent in their views of justice and equality. If you are a moral being, then moral beings ought to treat you as one. Everyone deserves a basic decent treatment in life.
Many philosophers have contemplated capital punishment since the beginning and I understand why people from a few thousand years ago thoroughly believed in capital punishment. The fact is that times are now changing and life carries new meaning. An eye for an eye is no longer an adequate argument for the death penalty. Capital punishment is simply unconstitutional. To begin, it is cruel because of the length of time it takes to kill someone by corporal punishment. The length of time it takes to kill someone through the court system could be over five years easily. Every piece of evidence and testimony is scrutinized in a fool proof way, yet there are still constant mishaps and innocent people die. Capital punishment is unusual because it is done in often inconsistent ways and is executed inconsistently. The methods of murdering an individual in a “humane” way is ridiculous. The ways that do not involve lethal injection are often brutal, lasting minutes, and causes pain and suffering to those watching. Lethal injection goes against any doctors Hippocratic oath and it is surprising those said ‘doctors’ still have their licenses. Nathanson prescribes a life in prison for those who commit atrocities and I agree with him but I must add on. When we kill one for killing, we set the tone of vengeance and irrationality. There is no justice in death, either way there will be pain and suffering felt by some sort of being. The idea of the government having power over life is scary. Ultimately, we should be the one and only true masters of our own body.
We must hold each other to the highest of standards if we all want to be on the path of enlightenment. Dr. Carl Thomas’s theory of moral superiority is fundamental to anti-capital punishment efforts. Rational persons that exist within the moral community must be examples of what is right. When executing someone for a heinous crime, the rational beings no longer become rational. The act of murder is only rational when defending a person’s life. Once the person in question is apprehended, handcuffed and under constant surveillance, they do not pose any threat to society. Those who punish have the moral duty to do what is just. Justice Thurgood Marshall reminds us that, “the taking of life ‘because the wrongdoer deserves it’ surely must fail, for such a punishment has at its very basis the total denial of the wrongdoer’s dignity and worth.” We have a duty to show the murderer that even though we have the capability to commit murder upon him in a just way, the moral community choses against that because it is not how one ought to act. Those who deserve punishment today ought to be punished in a fair, consistent mannerism tomorrow.
Haag, Ernest van der. 1986. “The Ultimate Punishment: a Defense.” Harvard Law Review Association.
Nathanson, Stephen. 1987. “An Eye for an Eye?” 344-352.
The Death Penalty Is a Denial of Human Dignity. 1976. 428 U.S. 153 (The Supreme Court).