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What is the O'ist view on the death penalty?

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I do not find the death penalty morally wrong, once you kill another it would only make sense that you forfeit your right to life as well. however, i would not support the use of it today. I think it is far worse to kill an innocent man than put a guilty one in jail instead of the chair. until there is a 100% infallible way to determine one's guilt or innocence then i will not support the death penalty's use. And as for pro-choice, any attempt of the state to strip one of choice is a clear breach of individual rights.

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I think it is far worse to kill an innocent man than put a guilty one in jail instead of the chair. until there is a 100% infallible way to determine one's guilt or innocence then i will not support the death penalty's use.

You confuse two very different epistemological standards in your post. It is possible to be 100% certain that a criminal is guilty. It is not possible for ANY human conclusion to be infallible, since fallibility is part of the nature of reason. I believe that a death penalty is proper in any case where we can be certain of the guilt and the murderer’s sanity. Either he cannot be rehabilitated (and is liable to murder again) or he can be rehabilitated, in which case suicide would be the rational action. In either case, death is the only just and rational punishment.

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You confuse two very different epistemological standards in your post. It is possible to be 100% certain that a criminal is guilty. It is not possible for ANY human conclusion to be infallible, since fallibility is part of the nature of reason. I believe that a death penalty is proper in any case where we can be certain of the guilt and the murderer’s sanity. Either he cannot be rehabilitated (and is liable to murder again) or he can be rehabilitated, in which case suicide would be the rational action. In either case, death is the only just and rational punishment.

"If it were possible to be fully and irrevocably certain, beyond any possibility of error, that a man were guilty, then capital punishment for murder would be appropiate and just. But men are not infallible; juries make mistakes; that is the problem.... It is preferable to sentence ten murderers to life imprisionment, rather than sentence one innocent man to death."

-- "What is the Objectivist stand on capital punishment," The Objectivist Newsletter, p. 3, January 1963.

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It is preferable to sentence ten murderers to life imprisonment, rather than sentence one innocent man to death.
I agree with this. I don’t think my standard of certainty (properly understood) is either impossible or too lax.

It is possible to be 100% certain that a criminal is guilty. It is not possible for ANY human conclusion to be infallible, since fallibility is part of the nature of reason.

I disagree with this as a standard. (Is Branden implying that this is the only acceptable one?) Suppose that we impose this impossible standard. To an innocent man, life imprisonment is not a superior alternative to the death penalty. It is however, a major cost to the legal system, and limitation to the extent justice can be carried out.

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I believe that a death penalty is proper in any case where we can be certain of the guilt and the murderer’s sanity.  Either he cannot be rehabilitated (and is liable to murder again) or he can be rehabilitated, in which case suicide would be the rational action.  In either case, death is the only just and rational punishment.

Until DNA evidence is stronger we cannot be certain. Often cases today come down to who has a good lawyer. Which seems very unobjective to me. Also, I dont believe it is the state's job to rehabilitate. They are there for retaliatory punishment. Not to "reinvent" a better member of society. Death penalty is moral, in theory, but not practical at this point of time, because it is FAR WORSE to sentence an innocent man to death than keep criminals in prison. And i think you should see the difference. There have been numerous overturns of death sentences, proving that certainty is not always an option, but when DNA evidence is flawless, I would see no problem with the death penalty.

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Until DNA evidence is stronger we cannot be certain.

I think you would be more accurate in stating, that "you" can't be certain, not "we".

While there are some cases where the evidence is circumstantial and more obscure, there are also many cases where the facts are very, very obvious and undisputable.

Whatever you mean by DNA evidence being "stronger", DNA will never be perfect either in terms of proving who committed a crime. If I'm 30 feet away from someone and shoot them with a gun, DNA isn't necessarily going to do squat. The forensic dramas and documentaries will frequently tell you that a person can't commit a crime without leaving some DNA behind. That may be true, but recovering that DNA can be nearly, if not totally, impossible in many cases.

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the best measure we have going for us at this point. Speaking for myself, I'm willing to stake my life on it. I understand how easy it is to avoid getting involved in things that end up getting you charged with murder.

VES

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Greedy Capitalist

I believe that a death penalty is proper in any case where we can be certain of the guilt and the murderer’s sanity. Either he cannot be rehabilitated (and is liable to murder again) or he can be rehabilitated, in which case suicide would be the rational action. In either case, death is the only just and rational punishment.

The death penalty is wrong! I mean in the political sense. Our court system will never be good enough for the death penalty. How can you possibly think that the death penalty is a just punishment when it is possible for an innocent man to be put to death? You know it has happened. In the political sense, the death penalty is absolutly wrong.

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It would have been helpful if you had given your prof’s argument for why the two positions are thus tied.
My apologies... you nailed it (what I believe, though not what the prof said) though here:

The correct connection between the two is that human being have rights because they are rational individuals.  Neither fetuses nor criminals can be dealt with as  rational individuals, which is why they either do not possess or forfeit their rights.  Of course the degree to which a criminal forfeits his rights is debatable.

I didn't want to say to much and sway the results of the poll before people had a chance to say what they thought originally.

Btw, since philosophy itself should be an integrated and consistent whole, any two ethical statements must be either consistent or inconsistent with each other.

I agree, and this is the larger context within which the conversation was held.

I think this claim was made to get people thinking, and I wouldn't say with any certainty that it is actually the position that my professor holds. He enjoys playing the roles of various philosophers as we discuss them in order to make us think (and usually get pretty aggravated) about the fallacies in each philosophy. It is unfortunate that we won't be covering Ms. Rand, because I'd really like to see his attempt at being in her position.

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In the political sense, the death penalty is absolutly wrong.

I am confused as to how it can be wrong in one sense (the "political sense") and right in others. Please explain.

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I dont want to put words in his mouth, but i think he meant that, practically the death penalty is flawed and has killed innocent people. But abstractly, it is a moral and just punishment, just we shouldnt use it at this time. Just my interpretation though.

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Nimble is exactly right.

The death penalty is something the state should have no right to do.

Is it case that you do not understand the transition from morality to politics? If so, I will not explain it here (I'm too busy)

A quick example of the difference between morality and politics:

I think that watching porn is immoral, but I do not think it should be illegal because it does not infringe on anyones rights. You have to understand the difference between politics and morality.

I think casual sex is immoral, but I do not think it should be illegal.

I think being a second-hander is immoral. No do you sort of see how politics and morality are different? I'm too busy to fully explain. Maybe someone here will take the reins.

Edit to say: If it is likely that even one innocent man has been put to death, then the only argument for the death penalty would be for the "common good"

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However, it is completely moral to kill someone who you are certain has killed and will kill again.

Why do you add the qualifier "and will kill again"? That's not something that can be known with certainty (predicting the future). Having killed, or more correctly murdered, once is sufficient for that person to have relinquished his / her right to life, regardless of whether or not one might guess that he / she will do it again.

As to the issue of certainty, I would also add that any conviction should then require the same absolute certainty requirement, not simply cases involving the death penalty. To deny any innocent man's liberty is an injustice. I think that this would be an impossible standard to enforce.

I am in agreement with some others who have put for the idea that there can never be absolute certainty, but there can be enough certainty. To have absolute certainty, one has to take into account any possible explaination regardless of how remote or ridiculous it may be in light of all the facts that may be present. One could never be convicted of ANY crime with that criteria according to any third party review of the facts.

The only one that would ever be fit to carry out any sentencing would be the person who actually witnesses in a crime, and they would have to carry out whatever sentencing is appropriate, immediately. In other words, no due process. Once one is removed from the scene, once time has separated us from the event, and once a third party becomes the reviewer, absolute certainty goes out the window.

VES

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Why do you add the qualifier "and will kill again"?

Sorry, I meant that not to be a qualifier but another example.

Death being the ultimate punishment, should not be carried out by the (possibly corrupt) state.

At least if you get life in prison you can still live! You can still try for appeals.

Once you're dead you're dead, game over.

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The death penalty is something the state should have no right to do.

Is it case that you do not understand the transition from morality to politics?  If so, I will not explain it here (I'm too busy)

I disagree that if a society of rational individuals delegate that authority to the government, that it does have not only the right, but the duty to carry out the death penalty.

And this is really less of a morality issue, and more of an ethical issue. Porn and sex are bad examples because as you rightly state, they don't affect other people's rights. What makes this more of an ethical issue is that murder and capital punishment DO affect other people's rights. The government's specific purpose is supposed to be to protect individual rights. However, the conflict arises when the government has to decide who's rights have precedence. The victim or the accused? The only workable method, which I believe is also the best method is an objective review of the facts with enough certainty to rule out all reasonable doubt. Any standard beyond that is unattainable, and thus makes law unenforceable. Therefore, the government could not carry out it's duty to protect individual rights.

VES

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I disagree that if a society of rational individuals delegate that authority to the government, that it does have not only the right, but the duty to carry out the death penalty.

I see. So, if the "people" democraticly grant the right of the government to tax you at a rate of 99% they have the duty to carry it out?

So, if the "people" democraticly grant the right of the government officials to rape women they have the duty to carry it out?

So, if the "people" democraticly grant the right of the government to all of your possesions they have the duty to take them?

Bad example buddy.

edit to say: "rational individuals?" a very rare occurance in our society.

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And this is really less of a morality issue, and more of an ethical issue. Porn and sex are bad examples because as you rightly state, they don't affect other people's rights. What makes this more of an ethical issue is that murder and capital punishment DO affect other people's rights.

I was not comparing porn to the death penalty! I was merely showing an example of the difference between morality and politics.

If you look at her question that I was responding to, it was not about the death penalty, it was a question about the difference between morality and politics.

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did the state have the duty to kill innocent people, and potentially more than it already has? Also, I think any Objectivist tries to stay clear of the term duty. I never said it was wrong in principle, I just do not see how you can argue its implementation in our system of law. Our system is a joke, and if you disagree, please state that, I have several examples where i can show innocent men being found guilty and exponentially more guilty men being found innocent.

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I see.  So, if the "people" democraticly grant the right of the government to tax you at a rate of 99% they have the duty to carry it out?

So, if the "people" democraticly grant the right of the government officials to rape women they have the duty to carry it out?

So, if the "people" democraticly grant the right of the government to all of your possesions they have the duty to take them?

Bad example buddy.

edit to say: "rational individuals?" a very rare occurance in our society.

No, you don't see. I said rational individuals, not "people". Is it your assertion that rational individuals (within the context of taxes) would vote to have a 99% tax rate? If so, there may be a rational reason for a very high tax rate. In an objectivist society, there would still have to be some sense of a "democratic" establishment of government, and the duties and authorities of that government. Part of the disagreement with laws today are based on their irrationality.

Would rational people institute a law that says it's okay to rape women? No, that's not a rational act.

None of your examples demonstrate values sought be rational people.

As a rational individual, I accept the value I personally get from being able to walk around in a city or state where murdering someone is at least minimally deterred by the idea that one would then forfeit their right to life. As such, that is a risk that I as an individual am willing to take. Thi is in much the same sense as an "extreme sportsman" risks his/her life in pursuit of a value sought by doing dangerous stunts. To them, the value gained is makes the risk acceptable to the individual, but not necessarily to society.

I take it from your perspective, that the risk of the death penalty to your life outweighs the value gained from having such a law. The fact that you refer to "an innocent man" is, in my opinion, more reflective of collective thought that what I'm proposing. I'm expressing my value of the death penalty on what I believe is in my rational self-interest.

VES

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did the state have the duty to kill innocent people, and potentially more than it already has? Also, I think any Objectivist tries to stay clear of the term duty.

VES

Actually, the term Ayn Rand uses is obligation, not duty. In that sense I stand corrected. And she uses that in context of the government's responsibility to protect the right's of it's citizens.

Our system is a joke, and if you disagree, please state that,
I think I have already stated what I think of the system. I did not evaluate it's humorous qualities however.

RationalCop said:

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the best measure we have going for us at this point. Speaking for myself, I'm willing to stake my life on it. I understand how easy it is to avoid getting involved in things that end up getting you charged with murder.

VES

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I find that I, as someone expected to respect the individual rights of others, cannot morally justify legislation that prohibits a woman from getting an abortion. I further reject the argument that life begins at conception. Such an argument is put forth by many organized religions and is based upon their considering a fetus to be of the same volitional framework as a living human.

By "pro-choice" I assume you mean "in favor of a woman's right to an abortion."

Regarding the death penalty, it's my position that it is justifiable for a legitimate government to inflict capital punishment on those who are convicted of unprovoked homicide in a court of law. I do, however, have a concern that certain individuals might be executed who might indeed be innocent, although this rarely seems to happen.

For example of an "unprovoked homicide," a shopkeeper is conducting his business in the usual manner. An armed bandit comes in and murders the shopkeeper, then steals goods and dollars. It is the obligation of government to protect our rights by removing such criminal, such that he is not in any way a threat to anyone else.

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Would rational people institute a law that says it's okay to rape women? No, that's not a rational act.
Neither is the death penalty

I'm expressing my value of the death penalty on what I believe is in my rational self-interest.

Your particular point is irrational. You are sacrficing the possible and likely innocent man's rights.

autojc

For example of an "unprovoked homicide," a shopkeeper is conducting his business in the usual manner. An armed bandit comes in and murders the shopkeeper, then steals goods and dollars. It is the obligation of government to protect our rights by removing such criminal, such that he is not in any way a threat to anyone else.

Removing him from society, yes. Killing him, no.

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If you remove him from society, why would you then have to kill him?

Irrational

And what if you were framed and falsely convicted of killing and YOU were going to be put to death. Would you want to sacrifice your rights as an individual for a person who thinks similar to you about the death penalty?

See what I mean about being irrational?

I speak for my rational self-interest, not you.

You mean your IRRATIONAL self-interest?

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