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Culture > News

Capital Punishment: Part Three

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CSU chapter.


Ernest van den Haag takes Kant’s theory and began to contemplate proportional retributivism. Knowing some of the flaws faced when pondering Kant’s theory, his ideals do further contemplate and solidify the argument for capital punishment. This is a step towards a more complex moral theory stemming from van den Haag’s theorem that replaces Kant’s equality with proportionality. Proportionality means equivalent but not necessarily the same and this concept exists on a spectrum. For van den Haag, the crime must fit the punishment and be equivalent. Now this does not infer death penalty but does not excuse it also. If the murder is heinous enough, there could be acceptance of the use of capital punishment. This does help to define the severity of crimes but not the punishments. Van der Haag’s main principle circulated around two ideas: deterrence, security and punishment according to severity. He believes that everyone does something for a purpose, a utilitarian way of thinking. When killing, the murderer murders to fulfill a suppressed desire. Humans do have the instinct to harm when harmed upon and certainly aggression occurs every day, but it does not constitute acceptance of the action. Now, many people may have urges to kill the person that cut them off, but the ideal of going to jail and being executed deters the action. Van der Haag quotes Sir James Fitzjames Stephen within his writings and he points out a phenomenon, “Some men probably abstain from murder because they fear that if they committed it they would be hanged. Hundreds of thousands have abstained from it because they regard it with horror. One great reason they regard it with horror is that murderers are hanged.” Deterrence, unfortunately, hold no tangible proof of working and shows that states with higher capital punishment find more murders within the community. Next, the finality of death makes the ideal that the crime will cease to exist. Killing the murderer will cease all activity on his or her end but will not change the fact that there are still bad people in the word. Killing a murderer is a band-aid on the wounds of the victims.  Finally, the last, but most important concept stemming from van der Haag, is that punishment should be proportional to the crime. This concept have influenced many judged all over the states. This concept makes a situation relative and unique to each individual person which is important. One who commits a murder because of insanity does not deserve death, but if the death penalty was universally applied he or she would die unjustly and with possible errors.

Current junior at CSU studying a plethora of subjects. I have a double major in Psychology and Philosophy with a concentration in mind, brain, and behavior AND, a minor in global studies. In my free time, I am a reiki and yoga teacher/student. I'm passionate about ethics, psychology, sexuality and much more! My goal in life is to make the world a better place.