Criminal Law and Philosophy 9 (2):245-264 (2015)

Peter Brian Barry
Saginaw Valley State University
Some jurisdictions acknowledge, as a matter of positive law, the relevance of evil to capital punishment. At one point, the state of Florida counted that the fact that a murderer’s crime was “especially wicked, evil, atrocious or cruel” as an aggravating factor for purposes of capital sentencing. I submit that Florida may be onto something. I consider a thesis about capital punishment that strikes me as plausible on its face: if capital punishment is ever morally permissible, it is permissible as a response to evil. Call this the Punishment as a Response to Evil thesis, or PRE. If capital punishment is not morally permissible as a response to evil, then, according to PRE, it is not morally permissible, period. PRE admits of at least two different readings: on the first, if capital punishment is ever morally justified it is justified as a punishment for evil crimes; on the second, if capital punishment is ever morally justified it is justified as a punishment for evil people. While this first version of PRE has found advocates in both philosophy and forensic psychiatry, I argue against this first reading of PRE and for the second. To secure this conclusion I appeal to an account of evil and evil personhood that I have developed elsewhere
Keywords Capital punishment  Death penalty  Evil  Depravity scale  Aggravation
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DOI 10.1007/s11572-013-9254-5
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References found in this work BETA

Moral Monsters and Saints.Daniel M. Haybron - 2002 - The Monist 85 (2):260-284.
The Concept of Evil.Marcus G. Singer - 2004 - Philosophy 79 (2):185-214.

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