Death Penalty: Report From Canada

Sam Pawlett epawlett at
Sun Mar 7 15:57:31 PST 1999

Carrol Cox wrote:

> James, recourse to philosophy for political argumentation ought to
> be in the last resort only, and perhaps not even then.

What!! People opposing the death penalty should use any and all arguments to support their position. The only arguments against the death penalty are philosophical arguments. Why draw a distinction between philosophical argumentation about political issues and political argumentation? Philosophers are your best ally!

> Michael Hoover,
> Yoshie, I in various ways have been trying to make the *political*
> argument against the death penalty, taking the debate out of both
> the philosophic stratosphere and the sentimental bog.

What political arguments?

> Then you let
> Max off the hook by giving him this philosophical will-o-the-wisp of
> free will vs determinism to pursue.

Will-o-the-wisp? Ted Honderich wrote a 700 page book defending determinism. That book is the complete opposite of will o the wisp. His life's work is his contribution to ridding the world of things like the death penalty and capitalist ideology. The determinism argument is the best argument against the death penalty.Incidentally, causal determinism does not suggest that people are simply a product of their environment. There is no weeping involved, just straightforward reasoning.

> As a result he (and any who agree with him) can continute to set
> two sentimentalities against each other: mere weeping for the
> criminal vs. mere weeping for the victim. Notice how quick he
> was to reduce Guthrie's song to such mush. He can answer that,
> but he can't answer (or at least hasn't tried to answer) any serious
> political arguments.

No. Advocates of retributive justice cannot answer the philosophical argument. The best attempt to answer it was made by Robert Nozick in his _ Philosophical Explanations_ p363ff. He argues that determinsim is true but irrelevant to a retributive theory of punishment.

> Carrol

Gimme a break.

1) the natural world is governed by causal laws. 2) humans are a part of the natural world ____________________________________ 3) humans are governed by causal laws

Sam Pawlett

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