Capital Punishment, the Inevitability of Caprice and Mistake

By Charle S L. Black Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Other Arguments
about Capital
Punishment

THE PURPOSE of this chapter is not to argue each issue in the capital punishment controversy, but rather to place the main thesis of the book, as it has just been stated, in relation to other issues in that controversy.

Let us take just the two main arguments commonly advanced in favor of the punishment of death—retribution and deterrence.

I know no way, finally, of effecting a meeting of minds, through reason, on the question whether sheer retribution is a worthy motive for action by the political society. I have never been able to get beyond the point of seeing here one of those ultimate clashes of value which cannot be resolved by argument. I am revolted by the idea of retribution through officially imposed death, just as I am revolted by the idea of poisoning for money; in neither case, in the end, am I able to prove to another person that

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