. the Death Penalty Even for the

.  In the works, “The Ultimate Punishment” by
Ernest van den Haag and “Abolishing the Death Penalty Even for the Worst
Murderers by Hugo Adam Bedau,” these two philosophers take on the problem of
the death penalty. They both introduce their sides on the death penalty. Haag
and Bedau give fascinating debates that makes choosing a side quite difficult.
The death penalty is the most severe form of torture and it can be harsh and
irrevocable. Both Haag and Bedau have contrasting perspectives about the death
penalty. Both of their arguments discuss problems such as the death penalty and
its prejudiced operation and the possibility of someone innocent being
executed. Ernest van den Haag believes the death penalty is justifiable and he
disputes his side in his work, “The Ultimate Punishment”. However, Hugo Adam
Bedau wants the death penalty to be abolished and demonstrates his opinions in
“Abolishing the Death Penalty Even for the Worst Murderers”. According to Haag,
“the death penalty is our harshest punishment. It is irrevocable; it ends the
existence of those punished instead of temporarily imprisoning them” (MMC,
192). He suggests that executing innocent people is considered “guilty” and is
a “miscarriage of justice” (MMC, 193) and should be interrupted but that does
not mean the death penalty should be abolished. Haag says that killing innocent
people is not a justifiable reason to abolish the death penalty.

In “The Ultimate
Punishment” by Haag, he introduces the topic of deterrence. He presents that to
“spare the lives of a few victims by deterring their murderers is more
important than preserving the lives of convicted murderers because of the
possibility, that executing them would not deter others” (MMC, 194).  Haag argues that not executing the murderer
is careless because there is no promise that the execution would save lives of
innocent victims. Individuals are less likely to violate the law if they are
aware that the punishment is just as harsh as the crime they committed. It
would only seem reasonable that the most heinous crime deserves the harshest
punishment. Therefore, murderers should receive the death penalty. Haag states
“the death penalty cannot be unjust to the guilty criminal” (MMC, 195). Haag
suggests that when murder occurs, the murderer has “dehumanized” themselves
that he cannot reside among the living (MMC, 196). The death penalty seems to
be the only choice of punishment that is fitting for murder.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

 On the other hand, Bedau has different views
of the death penalty issue. He argues that the death penalty should be
abolished. Both philosophers argue how innocent people considered guilty are
put to death.  Bedau disputes that the
death penalty will not “deter” the act of murder but it could prevent it. He
creates a contrast between capital punishment as prevention and as deterrence.
Haag only suggests the death penalty as a deterrent. When a murderer is
executed, the crime is seen as a preventive if this execution prohibits the
murderer from committing a crime again. Bedau argues that the death penalty
cannot deter the murderer from other committed crimes but it can prevent those
individuals from committing them. In his article, he presents another option.
He states “death is a more severe punishment than long-term imprisonment” (MMC,
202). This statement does not show that the death penalty is an improved
deterrent than the less harsh punishment of long-term imprisonment.

Bedau emphasizes that
if long-term imprisonment and the death penalty have equal success or no
success as deterrents to murder, then debating for the death penalty as
deterring murder is defective and weakened. He also argues that there is no
logical explanation for deciding on the death penalty when a lesser punishment
can be just as practical. After considering the death penalty as a deterrent
and the dangers of killing innocent people that it develops, Bedau gives a
different perspective to Haag approach with the death penalty.

I believe Ernest van
den Haag and Hugo Adam Bedau both took the utilitarian approach towards the
death penalty. Utilitarian’s believe that any action is morally right if it
achieves the best outcomes for as many individuals as possible. Haag accepted
that individuals consciously analyzed cost v. benefit when it comes to
committing crimes before they actually committed it, and if they are found
guilty this individual should endure the punishment that was appointed to the
crime. Also, Bedau argues from a utilitarian standpoint as well. Utilitarian
ethics is an approach facilitated by John Stuart Mill, in his work “Utilitarianism”,
suggests that the outcomes of an individual’s action should be analyzed in
order to give the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Bedau makes it clear that he is against
the death penalty. The death penalty as a deterrent might allow others to find why
the death penalty should not be morally permissible.

In conclusion, I believe
Bedau’s argument is much stronger than the one Haag presents.

Deterrence has been used as a defense
for the death penalty that Haag believes is acceptable as his way of defending
it. However, Bedau accomplishes to destroy the ideas of the death penalty and express
why these ideas do not make sense, while also revealing the truth that, on the other
hand to what is interpreted by advocates of the death penalty, it is not a impartial
way of giving justice to individuals in our society.

3.  In the works, “The Land
Ethic: Animal Liberation and Environmentalism”, by J. Baird Callicott and “People
or Penguins”, by William F. Baxter, the question of non-human rights and the
value of nature is addressed. Either
one was either advocating for the rights of animals and those who disagree with
the values and rights for nature. Callicott
and Baxter both have contrasting views about animal rights and the concept
non-human rights having value, despite human interests. In the Baxter’s
reading, his focus is on that the only value the world relies on how it benefits
human interests. Baxter says that
only interests for individuals should determine the responsibilities to the

Baxter suggests
something called the “spheres-of-freedom.” It is a mean to describe general
objectives to serve as testing criteria. His criteria are as follows:

(1)   The
spheres-of-freedom criterion stated above; (2) Waste is a bad thing. The dominant
feature of human existence is scarcity-our available resources, our aggregate
labors, and our skill in employing for some time to be, inadequate to yield
every man all the tangible and intangible satisfactions he would like to have;
(3) Every human should be regarded as an end rather than as a means to be used
for the betterment of another. Each should be afforded dignity and regarded as
having an absolute claim to an evenhanded application of such rules as the
community may adopt for its governance; and (4) Both the incentive and the
opportunity to improve his share of satisfactions should be preserved to every
individual. Preservation of incentive is dictated by the “no-waste” criterion
and enjoins against the continuous, totally egalitarian redistribution of
satisfaction and wealth… (MMC, 229).

He wants to emphasize that his criteria
is towards humans; not the penguins (MMC, 229). Baxter explains
his views by stating that individuals think like this; it is in our interests,
as humans, to maintain the environment and what we believe is good for us is
good for nature. In Baxter’s work,
he says that it is difficult, even impossible to designate people to center on
non-human interests.

the other hand, in the work, “The Land Ethic: Animal Liberation and
Environmentalism” by J. Baird Callicott, uses the theory by Leopold to propose a
contrasting way of looking at the values and rights of animals. His belief is that
land has value apart from human interests. He believes that since domestic
animals are created by human beings and created to meet an individual’s needs,
and because they cannot live without the help of   humans,
they do not apply to “the Land Ethic.

Callicott says that the greatest
good is health, rather than the capability, in relation to the biotic community.

a healthy biotic community something we value because we are so utterly and so
obviously dependent upon it not only for our happiness but for our very
survival or may we perceive it disinterestedly as having an independent worth”
(MMC, 237)?

Callicott’s basic belief is that all things in the
biotic community have intrinsic value because their function bestows that
value. He also says that the land ethic requires “love, respect, and admiration
for land, and a high regars for it svalue” (MMC, 238).

I believe that Callicott views
in “The Land Ethic: Animal Liberation and Environmentalism” are stronger than
Baxter’s argument. According to
Baxter’s perspectives, there are unique aspects that animals serve yet, human
beings have not been able to replicate. The
fact that non-human species have the ability to obtain certain functions shows
that without these creatures, we would not be able to survive. This statement could compare to Baxter
in that the non-human world holds an abundance of value because of how it pertains
to our interests, but also so that of Callicott’s view that the value of
non-humans lies in their function.

Callicott’s idea about rights
that preserve the organic integrity of the environment correlates with Baxter’s
view of what’s good for human beings is good for non-humans. It may seem that
despite the contrasting approaches about the rights of non-humans, Callicott
and Baxter have some similarities between their beliefs.

The decision on who had the stronger argument
is difficult to determine. I believe Callicott and Baxter’s view have me in the
middle. Although, I believe that non-humans have value different from people’s
interests, I also believe that it would be impractical to measure judge because
it is hard to determine what would occur to the biotic community, the biosphere
as a whole, without human beings in it.

4. In the work, “The
Entitlement Theory” by Robert Nozick, he presents the issue of
distributive justice. Nozick uses the entitlement theory to determine
distributive justice. His entitlement theory of justice is described as a
historical principle which “holds that past circumstances or actions can create
differential entitlements or differential deserts to things” (MMC, 456).
When Nozick distinguishes between historical principles of distributive
justice, he also uses time-slice principles of distributive justice as well. He
states that “time-slice principles of justice hold that the justice of a
distribution is determined by how things are distributed (who has what) as
judged by some structural principle(s) of just distribution” (MMC, 456).
As previously discussed, the entitlement theory is established based on
historical principles, since these principles deliberate to different
individuals what they deserve, depending on their past actions. In addition,
the end-result principles, or end-state principles, do not take historical
events into concern. He uses the principle of utilitarianism as examples of
time-slice principles of distributive justice. 

Individuals are
entitled to their holdings if the subject of justice in holdings consists one
of the following principles: (1) the original acquisition of holdings, (2)
transfer of holdings, and (3) the rectification of injustice in holdings. The
original acquisition of holdings includes:

Issues of how unheld
things may come to be held; the process, or processes, by 

which unheld things may
come to be held; the things that may come to be held by 

these processes; the
extent of what comes to be held by a particular process; and so 

on (MMC, 455).

The transfer of holdings is just only if
it is voluntary. However, the rectification of injustice in holdings is
essential to fix injustices in original acquisitions and transfers as stated by
Nozick when he explains that “the general outlines of the theory of
justice in holdings are that holdings of a person are just if he in entitled to
them by the principles of justice in acquisition and transfer” (MMC, 456).
Furthermore, the entitlement theory is not patterned. Nozick explains
“There is no one natural dimension or weighted sum or combination of a
small number of natural dimensions that yields the distributions generated in
accordance with the principle of entitlement” (MMC, 457). Nozick argues
that patterns of distribution can controlled by deliberately being intrusive in
the lives of others and defying the right to freedom. Nozick uses the example
of Wilt Chamberlain. 

The Wilt Chamberlain
example is showing that patterned principles of justice limit rights. The
patterned principle of justice suggests that distribution is just only when it
meets a certain pattern. In his example, Nozick says that prohibiting
individuals from paying more money to watch Chamberlain play basketball would
be a violation of peoples’ liberty. People who achieved the pattern principles
of justice would need to stop others from paying more money to observe
Chamberlain play basketball. For that reason, a society that enforces the
pattern principle of justice would unacceptably violate liberty. According to
Nozick, in order to maintain a pattern principle of justice, “one must
either continually interfere to stop people from transferring resources as they
wish to or continually (or periodically) interfere to take from some persons
resources that others for some reason chose to transfer to them” (MMC,

Nozick also talks about
redistribution and property rights. The distribution of goods he distribution
of goods produced by free market transactions would violate the principles. If
the objective of changing the distributive justice is to agree on of the
patterns of justice, then the intention is to make one individual assist
another. This would infringe the concept of individuality of someone’s
fundamental right.  Nozick uses John
Locke’s theory of labor and property. Nozick refers to the Lockean proviso,
which states “there must remain enough and as good in common for
others” (MMC). Nozick says that once it is known that someone runs afoul
of the Lockean proviso, there are stringent limits on what he may do with his
property” (MMC). Although Nozick uses Locke’s theory in his work, the
theory does not explain what the principle of distributive justice in transfer
should be, while displaying a contentious resolution for the problem of the
principle of justice in acquisition.

In the work,
“Inequality and Other Problems with Nozick’s Libertarianism” by John
Rawls, he believes that the first subject of justice is a basic structure,
which he says includes: “a society’s constitution, federal and state laws,
capitalist institutions and financial markets, and the family” (MMC, 463), which
are examples of society’s major institutions. According to Rawls, he thinks justice should be concerned with the
rules of society’s basic structure and why Nozick’s argument is insufficient. Rawls states the problem with Nozick’s
approach of libertarianism is it has no correlation with his theory of basic
structure. After expressing Nozick’s position, he disagrees that Nozick’s
doctrine sees that the “state is just like any other private association” (MMC,
464) as the state emerges in the same way as other associations and its
formations (MMC, 464). Also, if the
state has unique characteristics, it still has same relation with other

According to Rawls, he
states that “there is in general no uniform public law that applies equally to
all persons, but rather a network of private agreements” (MMC, 464).

Rawls determines that:

the libertarian view makes important use of the notion of agreement, it is not
a social contract theory at all; for a social contract theory envisages the
original compact as establishing a common public law which defines and
regulates political authority and applies to everyone as citizen. But political
authority and citizenship are to be understood through the conception of the
social contract itself. By viewing the state as a private association the
libertarian doctrine rejects the fundamental ideas of the contract theory…. (MMC,

He speculates a problem with this
because he wants to show why the basic structure has a special role and why it
is fair to seek special principles to regulate it (MMC, 464).

begins to specify many considerations that explain why the basic structure is
the first subject of justice. The first consideration is: “suppose we begin
with the initially attractive idea that social circumstances and people’s
relationships to one another should develop over time in accordance with free
agreements fairly arrived at and fully honored” (MMC, 465). Individuals need to
understand when agreements are “free” and when these social circumstances have
become fair. The basic structure secures a just background against the actions
an individual and associations performs. According to Rawls, we should start
with a basic structure and figure out how it should make adjustments to
preserve this background justice. If this can be completed, people will be freed
to advance their ends more efficiently within the framework of basic structure,
and secure knowledge that is necessary for the corrections able to preserve
background justice that is being established (MMC, 466).

            I believe Rawls had the stronger
article compared to Nozick. He challenges other arguments against Nozick’s
doctrine of the entitlement theory. He explains that why justice should be
concerned only with rules of society’s basic structure. The idea that justice
is to be viewed as fair is still seen as a commonality for further discussion
on distributional 


I'm Gerard!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out