Kant's Justification of the Death Penalty Reconsidered

Kantian Review 15 (2):1-27 (2010)
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This paper argues that Immanuel Kant’s practical philosophy contains a coherent, albeit implicit, defense of the legitimacy of capital punishment, one that refutes the most important objections leveled against it. I first show that Kant is consistent in his application of the ius talionis. I then explain how Kant can respond to the claim that death penalty violates the inviolable right to life. To address the most significant objection – the claim that execution violates human dignity – I argue that motives of honor, as Kant conceives it, require a rational person to will her own execution, were she to commit murder.

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Benjamin S. Yost
Cornell University


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