How to respond the Classmates
Your discussion question responses to other students must be substantive (i.e., they must make a contribution to the discussion, rather than simply expressing your approval of their post). Here are some of the types of responses that are appropriate and will earn you fill credit: (p, q, & r are variables of statements)
You can post several types of replies to your classmates:
1) Clarification Request: You claim p, but I don’t know what you mean by saying p. Please clarify. Do you mean by this q or r?
2) Argument Request: You claim p. I know what you mean by p. But why do you claim p? I don’t see any argument for p, and I think you need to give an argument for it.
3) Objection: You claim p (and maybe you argue for it). However, I think that p, (or your argument for p), is problematic. Here’s my objection to p (or to your argument for p): q. What do you say in response to q?
4) Assistance. You claim p. I agree with you that p, but i think the following additional reason (which you do not mention) can be given in support of p: q.
5) Competing Interpretation: You say that the reading claims that p. However, I don’t think that this is exactly what it says. Instead, I think it says q (and here’s why I think this).
6) Suggestion of Parallels: You claim p. P reminds me of so-and-so’s claim that q. (But keep in mind: Are the two really similar? Does comparing p to q help illuminate p, or is it just misleading?)
Here are two comments from my classmates, which need to response following the ways above.
1. “A Defense of the Death Penalty” focuses on the use of the death penalty for the purposes of retribution and deterrence. The retributivist defense believes that the death penalty is a “fitting response to evil”. This deontological approach claims that committing an act that warrants the death penalty means that they have “forfeited their right to live”.
Using the death penalty as a deterrent is more utilitarian in nature. It is thought that people will commit less crimes since they will fear the death penalty more than they will want to break the law. While in theory, it seems that people would not want to commit a crime because of these consequences, it often doesn’t have much bearing on a person’s motivations.
I found it confusing that deontological ethics would be used to defend the death penalty. This way of thinking promotes seeing people as an end in themselves and valuing human life, so to see it supporting ending a person’s life seems to miss the point. Parts of it do make sense to me because to commit a crime so awful that the death penalty is discussed shows how the perpetrator did not value someone else’s life. However, I think that ending one person’s life because of their actions relies on moral relativism that is beyond the scope of Kantian ethics.
2. Nathanson’s tactic or arguing against the death penalty in the theory then in practice was compelling and well-presented. A big issue Nathanson argues is deterrence. I think the death penalty is sometimes a deterrent for murder but so is killing the criminal’s family or life imprisonment. The issue here is the wrongness/justifiability of each punishment, which determines its deterrence value. One is widely agreed upon as wrong and unjustifiable, one is agreed to be acceptable, and the other is what we’re discussing today. So even the deterrence argument comes down to the morality of the punishment. In my opinion, Pojman’s common-sense argument holds plausible, but it is on the basis that execution is a humane punishment. If you believe execution to be an inhumane punishment, which I do, his argument is void. If a certain punishment is in the gray area of morality I don’t think it should be done. Pojman would argue that executing a criminal’s loved ones would be morally unacceptable because it takes innocent lives. He would say that it is the criminal’s guilt that makes their execution acceptable. But because of the many issues in practice, as Nathanson iterated, there is a chance that the criminal sent to death isn’t guilty. This fact crumbles Pojman’s argument. I think that until our criminal justice system can ensure a fair trial and 100% accuracy when charging someone with murder, the death penalty shouldn’t be practiced. Pojman said that just because a way in which a law is enforced leads to discrimination doesn’t mean the law itself is discriminatory. I think that in our society of many systemic issues, a penalty as egregious as execution shouldn’t be used until it can be enforced in a just, equitable way. I personally think that the realities of our society today make it very hard to justify.