Desert, Justice and Capital Punishment

Criminal Law and Philosophy 2 (3):273-290 (2008)
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Our purpose in this paper is to consider a procedural objection to the death penalty. According to this objection, even if the death penalty is deemed, substantively speaking, a morally acceptable punishment for at least some murderers, since only a small proportion of those guilty of aggravated murder are sentenced to death and executed, while the majority of murderers escape capital punishment as a result of arbitrariness and discrimination, capital punishment should be abolished. Our targets in this paper are two recent attempts, by Thomas Hurka and Michael Cholbi respectively, to defend the view that ‘levelling down’ (that is, reducing the punishment imposed on a criminal from the punishment he absolutely deserves to a less severe punishment in order to achieve proportionality relative to the criminals who have escaped the punishment they absolutely deserve) is, in the context of capital punishment, morally permissible. We argue that both Hurka and Cholbi fail to show why the arbitrariness and discrimination objection impugns the death penalty



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Citations of this work

The Structure of Death Penalty Arguments.Matt Stichter - 2014 - Res Publica 20 (2):129-143.
Is discrimination wrong because it is undeserved?Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

The concept of law.Hla Hart - 1963 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Utilitarianism.John Stuart Mill - 1863 - Cleveland: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Geraint Williams.
The Concept of Law.Hla Hart - 1961 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press UK.
Utilitarianism.John Stuart Mill - 2009 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. Oxford University Press.
Noncomparative justice.Joel Feinberg - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (3):297-338.

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