The death penalty and the Principle of Goodness

House, Ron (2009) The death penalty and the Principle of Goodness. The International Journal of Human Rights, 13 (5). pp. 680-688. ISSN 1364-2987

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The death penalty question is often framed in utilitarian terms of net balance: rights of victims vs rights to life of the convicted. This paper examines the issue from the perspective of the new ethical theory, the Principle of Goodness. At first sight, the Principle seems to be a strictly tighter moral principle than Kant’s categorical imperative; yet we find that the application diverges from the recommendations of Kant in this case. Unlike many discussions of this question, which often argue either no, or yes with a discussion of which crimes are ‘bad enough’ to deserve the penalty, we find that the ethical guidance from this Principle allows one to either argue for no death penalty, or for a death penalty, the conditions for its application being remarkably clear compared with much contemporary and historical argument; further, it upholds the right to life for all to the maximum extent that is consistent with a person’s own free choices. It will be assumed that the reader is familiar with a range of existing argument on the topic, and the paper will develop its own theme with contrast where necessary against Kant’s principles and utilitarian-style arguments of the kind that arose from that philosophy’s social policy origins.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Accepted Version deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Maths and Computing
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2011 12:34
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2014 05:45
Uncontrolled Keywords: death penalty, principle of goodness, ethics
Fields of Research : 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220305 Ethical Theory
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2201 Applied Ethics > 220104 Human Rights and Justice Issues
16 Studies in Human Society > 1602 Criminology > 160202 Correctional Theory, Offender Treatment and Rehabilitation
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9404 Justice and the Law > 940403 Criminal Justice
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970118 Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1080/13642980802533224

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