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To Defend a Killer, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1244

Essay

Whatshouldtheydo aboutthesecondthief?Why?WhatwouldKanthaveanswered?WhatImperatives wouldyouuseinansweringthequestion?

If we are to follow the best reasoning and make sense of the notion of right and wrong, we must not let our decisions be clouded by our emotions. We must examine the facts presented before us in order to determine the best course of action to be taken. Furthermore, we cannot answer such questions by appealing to what people generally think. They may be wrong. We must try to find an answer we ourselves can regard as correct. And finally, we ought never to do what is morally wrong. The only question we need to answer is whether what is proposed is right or wrong and not what will happen to us, what people will think of us, or how we feel about what has happened. This is the reasoning we imagine the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) would have had.

Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he called the “Categorical Imperative” (CI).  According to him an immoral act involves violating the CI, rendering it immoral. Like other philosophers such as Locke and Hobbes, Kant held the belief that moral requirements are based on standards of rationality (Kant’s Moral Philosophy).  He believed that a rational will must be regarded as autonomous in the sense of being the author of the law that binds it and that the law in question is none other than the CI. In simple terms a man is his own law and he binds himself under the law which he himself gives himself (Kant’s Moral Philosophy). Following this reasoning, the two thieves who are subject of the hypothetical in question would have been considered as two rational beings, who, out of their own free will, bound themselves under the law, violation of which was punishable by death. The death sentence for the second thief would therefore have been carried out as per the law.

Doesonewhokillsanother”deserve”todie?Whyorwhynot?Aretherecircumstances that wouldchangeyouranswer?

These questions can be tackled in different ways. In one sense one can say that there is no such thing as an absolute morality. If there existed absolutes in human society, then there would be no diversity in social norms.The Aristotelian is an antithesis to this in that he saw universality of behavior, in terms of notions such as courage and honesty.

As for Immanuel Kant, the notion of greatest good did not exist. Lying was wrong regardless of the circumstance.

In another perspective, the answers to these questions depend on the situation. This is where situational ethics comes to play to inform our legal and moral code in society. The Vietnam War for instance is one of countless situations that prompted the spiritual Buddhist teacher, Thich Naht Hahn, to write a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King urging him to voice his opinion against the war. In it he stated: “Do not kill man, even in man’s name.

Please kill the real enemies of man which are present everywhere, in our very hearts and minds…”

It is said that if you kill one man your called a murderer, kill a group of men your called a serial killer, kill ten thousand men then you are called a conqueror. In each of these examples, Socrates belief in argument and reason in ethics applies. Is death a consequence of self-defense, an accident or war?  This has also brought forth one of our most enduring debates, that of capital punishment and euthanasia.

Whatdoestheexercisetellyouaboutyourtendencytorelyon morallaworutilitarian reasoning?Whatdoesittellyouaboutyoursenseof thesacrednessof humanlife?

The suggested exercise underlined the fact that moral law is relative and absolutism makes law rigid. Utilitarian reasoning is a form of zero sum thinking, like a presidential election.

Stuart Mill did propose weak rule utilitarianism, which stated that in some circumstances rules can be broken to create the greatest amount of good and for the greatest amount of people. What comes across to one is that life is not as sacred as one can imagine. Life has a value. Its sacred and is not as absolute as one believes. From a religious perspective life is precious and sacred. Situational ethics soothes the collective conscious of humanity and is a way for us to escape the absolutist morality of religion or society.

Whatwouldanidealcriminallawprocesslooklike?Anidealsociety,ofcourse,would nothaveanycrime.Is thereawayof shapingourcriminallawandcorrectionalsystemto eliminatecrime?How?Ifnot,whatsystemwouldbethe mostmorallydefensible?

An ideal process is efficient and egalitarian. The Austrian and British philosopher Karl Popper said it best when he spoke of doing good for the greatest number of people. We should look forward to avoiding the greatest harm to the greatest number of people.

My criticism of the correctional system is that the rehabilitation aspect of it has been greatly neglected. It should not be about the incarceration of the body but the rehabilitation of the mind that will serve society best. Exile and some sort of spiritual, emotional rehabilitation should be incorporated. In Hobbes’ Leviathan, he saw human nature as being motived by physical pressures. It is these physical pressures that lead to crime and we need to move from the liberalist understanding of a purely materialist society to one that is more focused on the spiritualist aspect of it.

Voltaire said it best that if god did not exist, it would have been necessary to create him if for no other reason but to enforce and create a truly free human whose individual actions neither harm but benefit human society. All correctional systems in my view are defensible for the very simple fact that we live in a plurality of realities. This pluralism, or the doctrine of multiplicity, will give us our quintessential epistemology of living and punishing.

Take a look at your answer to the previous question. Look at the section of chapter one called the Human Condition.What does your answer tell you about your assumptions about human nature? Etc.

Aristotle believed that human beings had some inherited potentialities mentioned earlier. It informs us of his existence and essence. We are then faced with an existential crisis. Are our capacities inherent or are they all the same?

According to De Beauvoir, our existence is pure contingency. We create our world through our actions and we are masters of our own destiny. The human condition is ambiguous due to a lack of synthesis between mind and body. Therefore, one informs the other, each shaping the other in untold proportions. The nature vs. nurture debate is interesting in that nature lends the word fate to science disguised as genetics. I want to believe people through deep conscious effort can change the environment, being nothing more than a psychological reinforcer. So to answer the question, the nature of the punishment will determine the corrective and rehabilitative capacity of the individual. In short, my proposal is to focus more on the cognitive change through exile, what we call incarceration.

LookoverthepassagesfromBenthamand Millagain.HowdoesMill’sapproachdiffer fromBentham’s?HowwouldyoudescribethebasicperceptionsthatguideMill’s thinking,asopposedtoBentham’s?(Find,ifyoucan,acopyof Mill’s”Essayon Bentham,”andincorporateitsinsightsintoyouranswer.)

The difference between the two is their views of happiness. Bentham looked at it quantitively while Mills looked at qualitatively. Mill saw happiness as a mental thing (reading, writing), while his counterpart looked at it from a physical perspective (Sahakian). In Utilitarianism, Mill defended and added on to Bentham’s’ greatest happiness/good for the greatest number. However, the difference in level of censure for violators for Mills socially imposed external restriction could be motivated by an internal drive. Mill added on to Bentham’s work and they were adding on to Hume’s work that looked at the hedonistic value of human action (Sahakian).

Works Cited

Sahakian, William S. & Sahakian, Mabel Lewis. Ideas of the Great Philosophers.

De Finance, Joseph, An Ethical Inquiry, Rome, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1991

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Kant’s Moral Philosophy. First published Mon Feb 23, 2004; substantive revision Sun Apr 6, 2008, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/

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