Title

An Overreaching State: How Capital Punishment Goes Beyond the Role of Government

Presenter Information

Riley Schmit

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 271

Start Date

21-5-2015

End Date

21-5-2015

Keywords

Death Penalty, Retributivism, Justifications

Abstract

This will be a presentation of my senior thesis in philosophy. It is a moral argument against retributivist justifications for capital punishment, which focus solely on desert (i.e., what the criminal offender deserves). I argue that although retributivism is not necessarily wrong, it cannot justify the government sentencing criminal offenders to death. It may be that certain individuals deserve to die, but this in itself is not a justification for capital punishment. I show this by first discussing the history, implications, and applications of retributivism so that the position itself is well understood before continuing. I then argue that the role of the state, regarding criminal justice, is to protect its citizens from harm and reasonable threats of harm, which can be achieved by sentencing an offender to life in prison. I show how prison is punishment in itself, and why it is the case that life in prison is sufficient punishment in lieu of the death penalty. Thus, I conclude that the death penalty cannot be justified with retributivist principles because it is beyond any obligation of the government.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Matthew Altman

Department/Program

Philosophy & Religious Studies

Additional Mentoring Department

Philosophy & Religious Studies

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May 21st, 9:10 AM May 21st, 9:30 AM

An Overreaching State: How Capital Punishment Goes Beyond the Role of Government

SURC 271

This will be a presentation of my senior thesis in philosophy. It is a moral argument against retributivist justifications for capital punishment, which focus solely on desert (i.e., what the criminal offender deserves). I argue that although retributivism is not necessarily wrong, it cannot justify the government sentencing criminal offenders to death. It may be that certain individuals deserve to die, but this in itself is not a justification for capital punishment. I show this by first discussing the history, implications, and applications of retributivism so that the position itself is well understood before continuing. I then argue that the role of the state, regarding criminal justice, is to protect its citizens from harm and reasonable threats of harm, which can be achieved by sentencing an offender to life in prison. I show how prison is punishment in itself, and why it is the case that life in prison is sufficient punishment in lieu of the death penalty. Thus, I conclude that the death penalty cannot be justified with retributivist principles because it is beyond any obligation of the government.