Kant on capital punishment and suicide

Kant Studien 97 (4):452-482 (2006)
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Abstract

From a juridical standpoint, Kant ardently upholds the state's right to impose the death penalty in accordance with the law of retribution. At the same time, from an ethical standpoint, Kant maintains a strict proscription against suicide. The author proposes that this latter position is inconsistent with and undercuts the former. However, Kant's division between external (juridical) and internal (moral) lawgiving is an obstacle to any argument against Kant's endorsement of capital punishment based on his own disapprobation of suicide. Nevertheless, Kant's basic conception of autonomy underlies both of these otherwise distinct forms of lawgiving, such that acts of suicide and capital punishment are rendered equally irrational within his overall framework.

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