Annotated Bibliography: Ethical Perspectives on the Death Penalty

Annotated Bibliography: Ethical Perspectives on the Death Penalty

Bedau, H. (2019). The Case Against the Death Penalty. American Civil Liberties Union; ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) puts forth the argument that the death penalty ought not to be in place since it is a violation of the basic principle that a punishment should not be cruel or unusual. According to the union, the death penalty, given how it is conducted and the atmosphere around it i.e with premeditation and in some cases ceremony by some quotas comes out as a cruel and uncivilized form of punishment. The death penalty should therefore not be practiced because it not only goes against the civil liberties but also the principles of equity. “Principles of equity”, in this case as argued by the union demand that the murderer be considered a human being with a right to life. In addition to going against the principles of equity and civil liberty, it is uncivilized and dehumanizing. I do not agree with the arguments put forward by the union because they largely fail to consider the death penalty as punishment, a form of retributivist punishment. The argument that the death penalty lowers human dignity is not justifiable since, in the case of a murderer, there is no other punishment that shows respect and value for the life of the murderer other than the death penalty. The article is important for the research since it gives a view on how the death penalty is conceived in light of the renewed advocacy for civil liberties as well as equity and respect for human dignity.

‌Rajaneththi, S. (2019). Arguments on death penalty: Theoretical base of classical school of


The article takes the penologists' view of punishment and crime. By using John Locke's concept of the “Tabula Rasa” the penologists argue that the death penalty is ineffective since it is not rehabilitative yet the criminal can be rehabilitated by exposing them to a new more moral learning environment. “Tabula rasa” in this case refers to the fact that human beings are born with no knowledge of good and bad and only learn it from their environment. Given that humans learn from their environment they could have learned to commit crimes. Penologists argued that they should therefore be given the chance to learn good morals rather than being put through the death penalty. They further argue that the criminal is merely a reflection of the society and is only displaying the products of its “locus of individual pains and rights”.By “locus of individual pains and rights”, means a collection of the negative experiences that drove the criminal to commit the crime. The article puts forward a logical argument but then fails to consider the need for justice and deterrence. Part of the reason punishment is vested for crimes is so that it can deter people from committing the crime and also to ensure that those affected get justice. The article is important in the research since it gives a penologist's view on the ineffectiveness of the death penalty as a form of punishment.

Evans, I. I. (2022). Life for Life or Life for Less: Voices against the Death Penalty? Nnamdi Azikiwe University Journal of International Law and Jurisprudence, 13(2), 115-128.

The article considers the views about the death penalty in the modern world. Rather than using the philosophical underpinnings of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant who argued for the death penalty and Bedau who argued against it. For the article, the major argument put forward is that of consideration for human rights. It argues that all human beings regardless of their actions have a right to life. By a “Right to life”, the article means that nobody including the government has a right to take anyone's life.No one should therefore take the life of another as a punishment for a crime no matter how heinous the crime is. However, from the research carried out, the researcher found that modern society is not attaching much value to the life of the victims of capital offenses and is instead attaching more value to the offenders' lives. The article, therefore, suggests the reopening of the debate on the death penalty rather than blindly following the international law on human rights. One major limitation of the article stems from its suggestion. Reopening the debate on the death penalty will not offer a solution, since, like most philosophical debates, no concrete solution is ever arrived at. The importance of this article in the research is that it gives views on the death penalty as viewed by ordinary people who have no philosophical background.

Heneghan, F. (2021). Philosophy’s Persuasiveness of Death in advance. Philosophy Today.

The article examines Kant’s justification of the death penalty. It argues that the defense for the death penalty as given by Immanuel Kant is the most logical philosophical explanation as to why the death penalty ought to be given as punishment for some crimes. However, despite the article praising Kant’s arguments, it exposes them to the “Derrida argument”.The “Derrida argument” postulates that oppositions put forwards against philosophical arguments equally suppress and depend on the metaphor in the very arguments. When the Derrida argument was applied to Kant's philosophical arguments in support of the death penalty, it fails to challenge the argument. The failure is partly because Immanuel Kant in his propositions made a distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal. Heneghan then concludes that the condemnations against capital punishment i.e both the contingent and empirical may be sufficient. The findings of this article are rather complex and are probably not in line with the propositions developed in the first instance. While the author states that Kant’s arguments for the death penalty pass the Derrida test, he makes the conclusion that the condemnations of capital punishment are sufficient. The importance of this article is that it shows how philosophical arguments can be subjected to other tests other than the normal method where alternative ideas and paradoxes are used to test the soundness of a philosophical argument.

Udoudom, M. D., Bassey, S. A., Okpe, T. A., & Adie, T. (2019). Kantian and utilitarian ethics on capital punishment. Budapest International Research and Critics Institute (BIRCI-Journal): Humanities and Social Sciences, 2(2), 28-35.

The article recognized the different notions of punishment in the world today and also questions what each society considers to be a befitting punishment for certain crimes. On the matter of the death penalty, the article considers the Kantian and the utilitarian perspectives of the death penalty. When considered from the Kantian angle, the death penalty is justifiable and is a befitting punishment for those who commit crimes such as murder and rape. In addition, the death penalty is also considered to uphold the human dignity of the victim and is therefore considered to be retributivist and equitable. On the other hand, considering the utilitarian approach, the decision ought to be guided by an understanding of the society and the consequences of the action being taken. Therefore for utilitarians, the death penalty is also accepted though for a different reason. In the Kantian approach, the major reason is the “principle of equity” as well as retributivism. The principle of equity is that which demands that all humans are treated equally and their dignity upheld. Given that the article makes a comparison between two ethical theories, its only limitation is the failure to include other ethical points of view such as the virtue theory and the social Egoist theory. However, despite the limitation, the article helps in the research by providing an in-depth understanding of the Kantian and the utilitarian approach to ethical issues more so the death penalty.