David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Southern Journal of Philosophy 50 (s1):5-19 (2012)
“What if the death penalty were a drug?” This question opens the essay and is pursued through two very different kinds of texts. On the one hand, Derrida's 1999–2000 Death Penalty Seminar is brought to bear for its analysis of what is called there the “anesthesial logic” of capital punishment. This logic, Derrida argues, has determined both pro– and anti–death penalty discourses since at least the mid-eighteenth century. On the other hand, the essay gathers evidence of events that led, in 2010, to the unavailability in the United States of sodium thiopental—the anesthetic component of the three-drug protocol of the lethal injection—which forced many death penalty states to halt executions. Current events thus confirm the philosopher's analysis that anesthesia is indeed the lynchpin of the apparatus of state-sanctioned executions. But the analysis of this anesthesial logic also leads one to pose the further question of who is being anesthetized by this protocol and its discursive devices: the sentenced or the sentencers?
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