In Gerard Walmsley (ed.), African Philosophy and the Future of Africa. Council for Research in Values and Philosophy. pp. 83-90 (2011)
What is the strongest argument grounded in African values, i.e., those salient among indigenous peoples below the Sahara desert, for abolishing capital punishment? I defend a particular answer to this question, one that invokes an under-theorized conception of human dignity. Roughly, I maintain that the death penalty is nearly always morally unjustified, and should therefore be abolished, because it degrades people’s special capacity for communal relationships. To defend this claim, I proceed by clarifying what I aim to achieve in this essay, criticizing existing objections to the death penalty that ethicists, jurists and others have proffered on ‘African’ grounds, and, finally, advancing a new, dignity-based objection with a sub-Saharan pedigree that I take to be the most promising.
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