Essay title: Penalty
Capital punishment, which is also referred to as the death penalty, is defined by Webster Dictionary as, “the pre-meditated and planned taking of a human life by a government in response to a crime committed by that legally convicted person.” This type of punishment has been around since the United States itself was created and throughout its history there have been many debates over its constitutionality of it, but more importantly over its morality. The death penalty was used throughout the United States until 1972 when the United States Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional. The use of this punishment peaked in the 1930s during the Great Depression, but then the numbers of people executed dropped sharply in the 1950s and 1960s. There were no executions between the years of 1967 and 1976. Although the unconstitutional ruling of the death penalty saved the lives of hundreds on death row, who were sent back to prison, this ruling only lasted until 1976 when it was unfortunately reinstated by another Supreme Court. The majority of European countries have abolished the death penalty in the past fifty years. It is mostly America, Asian countries and totalitarian governments who still enforce it as a punishment. In some places around the world it can be used as a punishment for crimes other than murder, including cowardice, desertion, insubordination and mutiny. After a recent execution, in December of 2005, public opinion on this issue was raised once again and an ongoing battle of whether it is moral or not has continued. Although Aristotle never specifically stated an opinion on the death penalty, yet it can be assumed through his beliefs in other things that he believed it was ethically justifiable when used in certain circumstances. The way in which Aristotle viewed the use of capital punishment for the criminal offense of murder, is no longer supported by the majority of American society. Currently many Americans support the use of the death penalty, thinking that it should be reserved for the worst crimes committed, but according to recent survey the majority feel that there is no way the action of capital punishment can be ethically justifiable.
Aristotle never argued on the morality of the death penalty, yet many have determined his views on the topic based on “the principles found in his theory of human action and justice in rectification. (Aikin)” According to Aristotle acts such as murder are not always the result of a psychological disorder in which the individual has the longing to bring about the death of others, yet in many cases the individual committing the crime does so voluntarily, being aware of all of the consequences of the actions, and knowing that it is not socially acceptable. If the act is committed voluntarily then according to Aristotles beliefs that individual should be held liable for their actions and if they were aware that the use of the death penalty was a consequence when they committed the crime then they should be subject to it as a punishment. “We are required by justice to rectify the situation by punishing this agent in proportion with the harm caused. (Cronk)”
Hypothetically, if an individual goes out one night to track down and murder another person for revenge, hatred or just a general longing to harm someone they should be held responsible for those actions. In a situation similar to this it would be believed that Aristotle would think that that individual should be tried for murder with the death penalty as a possible punishment. Another situation in which the death penalty could be used is if an individual goes out to commit one crime and ends up taking the life of an innocent person during the act of the crime. For example if someone goes into a local convince store to rob the cashier and in the process in order to complete that robbery they have to shoot and kill the cashier then they are responsible for that persons death. They voluntarily committed the act of robbery and therefore were aware of the possible foreseeable consequences of their actions and they, in Aristotles view, should be held responsible for the murder of that innocent third party.
An example of one case in which Aristotle believed that it would the death penalty should not be applied for the act of murder is in the case of self defense. “The death would be considered involuntary by Aristotles definition given that the threat of bodily harm was adequately severe. (Aikin)” The act of protecting your own life, in Aristotles mind, warrants the act of killing. In this case the death penalty should not be used as a punishment. It has been found that Aristotle also believed the death that resulted from negligence should not be punished through the use of the death penalty. “If the agent was ignorant of the relevant particular toxicity of the action