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Kant

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Immanuel Kant, a supporter of capital punishment, offered us of the most complicated, if not ambiguous, views on the subject. In fact, he would've ironically disagreed with its modern proponents. Those who advocate capital punishment today often do so for utilitarian reasons. For example, the death sentence would protect society by not only preventing a purpertrator from committing the same crime again, it would also deter others by setting an example. Kant would've argued the rights of the condemned are being trampled; by using him as an example, we are using him as a means to an end. A rational being, in Kant's view, is an end in himself, whether criminal or law-abiding

citizen. We would thus be violating his humanity.

In Kant's view of ethics, actions must be undertaken from a sense of duty dictated by reason, and no action performed for appropriateness or solely in obedience to law or custom can be regarded as moral. Moral acts are done for the "right" reasons. Kant goes on to describe two types of commands given by reason: the hypothetical imperative, which dictates a given course of action to reach a specific end; and the categorical imperative, which dictates a course of action that must be followed because of its rightness and necessity. The categorical imperative is the basis of morality and was stated by Kant in these words: "Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will and general natural law."

Reason, through the categorical imperative, would render such motives immoral; nevertheless, if a man is guilty, it would also dictate that he must not escape punishment. Otherwise, not only is justice being flaunted, but equality, which Kant sees as the basis of law and order, will not have been served. When selecting a punishment, equality becomes our standard. But what in Kant's view, is equality?

To answer this, we must first understand his concept of jus talionisÐ'--the right of retaliation. In essence, there are two parts to this. One, Kant argues that a punishment must fit the crime. He would argue that the degree of suffering inflicted on the victim should be inflicted on the perpetrator. Two, if one commits a crime, he is exposing himself to the danger of his actions. If crime were to become universalized, and therefore acceptable, what is there to protect him from the wrongdoing of others? There would be nothing to shield the rapist from being violated, the thief from being stolen from, or the murderer from being killed.

Therefore, the question becomes this: for equality to be served, how would punishment fit the crime? Is it appropriate to deprive a thief of his property? In the case of murder, Kant would view the death sentence as the only adequate response. There is nothing proportional to the crime of murder other than depriving the life of the killer. Anything less would leave the scales of justice out of balance. Kant offers us strong words in this regard. "If society were to suddenly to abolish itself the last murder lying in prison ought to be executedÐ'...that everyone may realize the desert of his deeds," and "that bloodguiltiness may not remain upon the people." (Kant: anderson) However, if a criminal were to

torture his victim to death, must he be exposed to the same fate? If we follow his line of argument, it would seem that Kant would answer yes. Jus talionis.

Let the punishment be proportional to the crime. Let the criminal suffer as his victim. But here's where Kant surprises us.

Most of us would agree that torture is inhuman. If we were to apply jus talionis in this regard, we would in essence become criminals ourselves. Kant seems to realize this when he states the following:

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