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Kant's Views on Capital Punishment

Kant believes it is wrong to treat individuals as a means or instrument to an end, primarily because it robs the individual of his or her inherent dignity - dignity derived from the fact that he or she is capable of acting freely in accordance with the dictates of reason and morality. In Kant's moral philosophy, reason and morality are inextricably connected. Kant argues that rational human beings have choices and are not passive pawns of natural forces. He argued we are able to "regulate" our behavior in accordance with the law our "reason" constructs for us - the "moral law" (Solomon and Higgins 211). We demonstrate our freedom when we act in accordance with this law and respect within others their essential humanity or dignity. In other words, a murderer could choose a different action if he or she were to act with reason and on freedom of will.

Kant's views on capital punishment are purely retributive, in that he views capital punishment as a just form of retribution in certain cases. Kant argues it is flat out wrong to punish people for "utilitarian reasons," like deterrence of crime or protection of society (Stairs 1). Instead, Kant maintained that punishment must always be a reflection of guilt of the individual being punished. As Stairs (1) explains, "Kant goes further in that


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Kant's Views on Capital Punishment. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:28, October 24, 2014, from
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