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Moral Philosophy and Views on Capital Punishment of Immanuel Kant

In society, Kant believes that if an ethical and moral commonwealth is to come into being, individuals must be subject to a public legislation and the laws which bind them must be capable of being regarded as commands of a common law-giver. Kant (90) states, "the concept of an Ethical Commonwealth is the Concept of a People of God under Ethical laws." In such a commonwealth, all laws are expressly designed to promote the morality of human actions. He further states than an ethical commonwealth can be thought of "only as a people under divine commands," i.e., as a people of God and indeed under laws of virtue" (Kant 91). Kant believes that such a commonwealth is important because it is through the commonwealth that man enters into the moral and ethical life and creates the social and institutional structures as well as the judicial laws which affirm and support such a structure. In this sense, for the reasons discussed beforehand, Kant views capital punishment as one such ethical law created by the criminal justice system, an institution created to support a moral and ethical commonwealth and life.

Despite Kant's views on capital punishment, it seems that his argument for it favor using another individual (the condemned) as a means of justice or retribution. As Solomon and Higgins (212) explain, in his philosophy Kant maintains it is "always wrong to use another person as a mere instrument to reach one's own objectives." To do so is to use a person and to thereby show disrespect for that individual's dignity. Many who argue against capital punishment do so because they find it a cruel form of punishment that robs the individual of dignity. The U.S. Constitution even bars any form of punishment considered "cruel and unusual" in the 8th Amendment. In this sense, then, Kant's argument for capital punishment appears to promote the use of an individual as an instrument or means to provide retribution as the end. Kant a...

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Moral Philosophy and Views on Capital Punishment of Immanuel Kant. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:06, August 18, 2017, from
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