The death penalty and the Principle of Goodness

Article


House, Ron. 2009. "The death penalty and the Principle of Goodness." The International Journal of Human Rights. 13 (5), pp. 680-688. https://doi.org/10.1080/13642980802533224
Article Title

The death penalty and the Principle of Goodness

ERA Journal ID33895
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorHouse, Ron
Journal TitleThe International Journal of Human Rights
Journal Citation13 (5), pp. 680-688
Number of Pages9
Year2009
Place of PublicationAbingdon, UK
ISSN1364-2987
1744-053X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/13642980802533224
Web Address (URL)http://www.informaworld.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=1364%2d2987&volume=13&issue=5&spage=680
Abstract

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.

Keywordsdeath penalty, principle of goodness, ethics
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020500306. Ethical theory
500104. Human rights and justice issues (excl. law)
440202. Correctional theory, offender treatment and rehabilitation
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Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Mathematics and Computing
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