Philosophy Seminar Series: 11Nov2010, 3-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Chetan Cetty, Current Undergraduate, NUS; Moderator: Dr. Neil Sinhababu
Abstract: Two common arguments in support of capital punishment for murder are the Desert and the Best Bet arguments. The Desert Argument concludes that individuals who murder deserve to be punished by a death sentence. Advocates of this argument, usually retributivists, obtain this conclusion by applying usually one of two requirements: the punishment should replicate the action of the crime committed, or the punishment should replicate the degree of harm inflicted upon the victim of the crime. The Best Bet argument concludes that even if we cannot show that capital punishment is a superior deterrent (compared to all other forms of punishment), we should still adopt it because we would incur lesser risks by doing so. The argument (which is very similar to Pascal’s Wager) involves measuring the potential losses incurred when we either adopt capital punishment or abstain, and are correspondingly mistaken about its deterrent effect. Both these arguments have been responded to by philosophers. However, both arguments could still be defended. In this talk, I will summarise the common responses to these arguments before showing how they could be defended. Then, I will critique these defences, detailing the numerous problems they run into.