Crimes such as the mass murder recently committed in Norway provoke the strongest calls for the death penalty. Among ethicists, the morality of capital punishment typically is discussed in terms of whether or not capital punishment can be morally justified, i.e., the question is whether or not capital punishment is ever permissible. However, neither the morality nor immorality of capital punishment has been decisively demonstrated. My argument assumes that capital punishment is permissible in at least some circumstances. I argue that, even if we think that capital punishment is morally permissible, if we take into account the moral value of mercy, we can see that rejecting capital punishment as a form of punishment is preferable to using it. My argument takes the following form:1. Capital punishment is not morally required in any case.2. Mercy is a morally valuable trait; actions that demonstrate mercy have more moral worth than those that do not, ceteris paribus. Thus, a moral viewpoint that incorporates mercy is preferable to one that does not.3. Not executing those who have committed capital crimes demonstrates mercy.4. Just punishment of capital crimes is compatible with showing mercy.5. Thus, not executing those who have committed capital crimes is morally preferable to executing them. I conclude with a brief discussion of the implications of my argument.
Keywords Applied Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0739-098X
DOI ijap20122619
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