The Ethics of Capital Punishment: A Philosophical Investigation of Evil and its Consequences

Paperback | February 28, 2014

byMatthew Kramer

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Debate has long been waged over the morality of capital punishment, with standard arguments in its favour being marshalled against familiar arguments that oppose the practice. In The Ethics of Capital Punishment, Matthew Kramer takes a fresh look at the philosophical arguments on which thelegitimacy of the death penalty stands or falls, and he develops a novel justification of that penalty for a limited range of cases.The book pursues both a project of critical debunking of the familiar rationales for capital punishment and a project of partial vindication. The critical part presents some accessible and engaging critiques of major arguments that have been offered in support of the death penalty. These chapters,suitable for use in teaching courses on capital punishment, valuably take issue with positions at the heart of contemporary debates over the morality of such punishment.The book then presents an original justification for executing truly terrible criminals, a justification that is free-standing rather than an aspect or offshoot of a general theory of punishment. Its purgative rationale, which has not heretofore been propounded in any current philosophical andpractical debates over the death penalty, derives from a philosophical reconception of the nature of evil and the nature of defilement.As the book contributes to philosophical discussions of those phenomena, it also contributes importantly to general normative ethics with sustained reflections on the differences between consequentialist approaches to punishment and deontological approaches. Above all, the volume contributes to thephilosophy of criminal law with a fresh rationale for the use of the death penalty and with probing assessments of all the major theories of punishment that have been broached by jurists and philosophers for centuries. Although the book is a work of philosophy by a professional philosopher, it isreadily accessible to readers who have not studied philosophy. It will stir both philosophers and anyone engaged with the death penalty to reconsider whether the institution of capital punishment can be an appropriate response to extreme evil.

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Debate has long been waged over the morality of capital punishment, with standard arguments in its favour being marshalled against familiar arguments that oppose the practice. In The Ethics of Capital Punishment, Matthew Kramer takes a fresh look at the philosophical arguments on which thelegitimacy of the death penalty stands or falls...

Matthew H. Kramer is Professor of Legal and Political Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and Director of the Cambridge Forum for Legal and Political Philosophy. He is the author of a dozen previous books and the co-editor of four other books.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:February 28, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199642192

ISBN - 13:9780199642199

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction2. Deterrence through Capital Punishment3. Death and Retribution4. Death as Incapacitation5. Death as a Means of Denunciation6. The Purgative Rationale for Capital Punishment7. The Death Penalty in Operation

Editorial Reviews

"In this bold philosophical inquiry, Professor Matthew Kramer develops a justification for the death penalty as a sui generis concept: the purgative rationale. After grappling with and rebutting the standard justifications for capital punishment deterrence, retributivism, incapacitation, anddenunciation Professor Kramer develops the purgative rationale, arguing that a community is tainted in other words, its moral integrity is lessened by the continuing existence of anyone who has perpetrated some especially hideous crimes" --Harvard Law Review