The approved topic I selected from the www.procon.org Website was whether death penalty is immoral (Procon.org, 2017). My position on this issue was that death penalty is ineffective and immoral. I chose this topic because it has been under debate for a larger part of human history. The issue of death penalty arouses strong feelings. During election campaigns, politicians make commitments against or for death penalty. When an execution is about to take place, opponents and supporters of death penalty demonstrate outside prisons. Ethicist have been debating on the arguments in both sides of the issue. In the Bible, death is prescribed as a penalty for those who strike their mothers or fathers, or to homosexuals, rapists, prostitutes, adulterers and blasphemers. Societies such as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany executed millions. More than a hundred countries abolished death penalty. According to Amnesty International (2017), countries that still execute death penalty include USA, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China. Morality of death penalty has both opposing and proposing arguments.
One opposing view on this topic is that capital punishment is moral because it sentences only the worst of the worst who commit the most brutal, conscienceless and heinous murders (Procon.org, 2017). The other opposing view is that if someone commits a heinous evil, the society has the right to take away his/her life (Procon.org, 2017). The view that I will try to defend in this assignment is that death penalty is immoral and it does not achieve its purpose of punishing. First, an individual who has been executed cannot be rehabilitated. Second, the act is irreversible, in that, if an innocent person’s life is taken away, the injustice is suffered forever. Third, death penalty devalues life.
An individual who has been executed through death penalty cannot be rehabilitated. The proposers of death penalty view it as a punishment (they refer to it as capital punishment) that is supposed to reduce brutal, conscienceless and heinous murders in the society. I disagree that death penalty is a punishment because it does not achieve the purpose of a punishment. According to Fieser (2017), the basic definition of punishment is the act which inflicts suffering on an actual or supposed offender for an offense like legal or moral transgression. Punishments aim to change the predisposition of the offender to his/her criminal behavior in order to keep them from being a threat to the society. Death penalty does not change the individual, but it eliminates them completely.
Death penalty is irreversible. If an innocent person’s life is taken away, the injustice is suffered forever. Execution by death penalty is an ultimate irrevocable punishment. Death penalty risks the fact that if an innocent individual is executed, that risk can never be eliminated. According to Amnesty International (2017), since 1973, one hundred and fifty prisoners who were executed in the United States were later exonerated. In addition, others were executed despite their cases having serious doubts surrounding their guilt. Taking away the lives of innocent individuals is immoral. In the case of those who were later exonerated, they could not be brought back to life because the punishment invoked on them was irrevocable. There must be other more appropriate punishments that could prevent execution of innocent lives or those whose cases have serious doubts.
Death penalty devalues life. Execution is a violation of the most fundamental human right. It devalues life and eliminates the possibility for transformation of spirit, which is intrinsic to humanity (Ciuca, 2015). The right to life is a moral principle that human beings have a right to live, and should not be executed by another human. With death penalty, other human beings execute the killing of the offender. Taking the life of another individual, when one cannot bring it back is immoral. When the society deliberately kills its members, it reduces the value placed on human life. This is later reflected in its culture by increased rates of murders. Ciuca (2015) points out that death penalty increases the rates of murder than it reduces. This is because, a murderer who knows that he/she would be killed once caught, feels that they have nothing to lose, making them more callous and desperate.
According to the believing game, there are things that made me see the opposers’ views as true. First, opposers believe that capital punishment is moral because it sentences only the worst of the worst who commit the most brutal, conscienceless and heinous murders (Procon.org, 2017). I thought this response was true because death penalty scares individuals from committing brutal, conscienceless and heinous murders. In countries where capital punishment is executed, it is a fact that most individuals avoid committing murder to avoid death penalty. I came to believe what the opposers believed after truly examining what they were saying, but not merely on expectation.
The second opposing view is that if someone commits a heinous evil, the society has the right to take away his/her life (Procon.org, 2017). Basing this on the believing game, I thought this response was true because reciprocating what others do is not a bad thing. In life, people enjoy when others reciprocate their deeds such as in cases of love and appreciation. I came to believe this opposer’s belief after truly examining what they were saying, but not merely on expectation.
The two biases that I experienced in my examination included Bandwagoning and the confirmation bias. Bandwagoning is the tendency of adopting the same belief as other people or assuming that people make the right decision. This bias contradicted the position I took. At some point, I almost believed that capital punishment is morally right because it reciprocates what the killers have done, and it reduces rates of murder. The confirmation bias refers to the tendency of finding evidence which supports what one already believes (Arceneaux, 2012). This bias supported the position I took because I was able to easily support my position why death penalty is immoral. However, the two biases did create a barrier to my thinking since I was able to truly examine the arguments. After using the believing game, my position has not changed because my examination largely supported my position.
In conclusion, the issue of whether death penalty is immoral has been a debate for long. It has been engaged by politicians in election campaigns, demonstrators during executions and by ethicists who argue on both sides. The opposers argue that death penalty is moral because it sentences only the worst who commit the most heinous murders, and that the society has the right to take away his/her life. My position is that death penalty is immoral and it does not achieve its rehabilitative purpose of a punishment. While examining the morality of death penalty for this position was, I experiences the bandwagoning and the confirmation bias, which did not hinder my critical thinking. Even after engaging in the believing game, my position remained that death penalty is immoral.
Amnesty International. (2017). Death Penalty. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/
Arceneaux, K. (2012). Cognitive Biases and the Strength of Political Arguments. American Journal Of Political Science, 56(2), 271-285. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2011.00573.x
Ciuca, A. (2015). The Death Row: An Argument for Death Penalty Abolition?. SSRN Electronic Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2621583
Fieser J. (2017). Moral Issues that Divide Us. Retrieved from https://www.utm.edu/staff/jfieser/class/160/7-cap-pun.htm
Procon.org. (2017). Is the Death Penalty Immoral? Retrieved from https://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001038
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