> PS. If you couldn't tell, I'm very opposed to the death penalty. I
go at that and this issue with a view along the lines of "There's
always hope. Hey, maybe eventually we'll figure out what's wrong with
clinically diagnosed psychopaths!" So I am aware that this whole
question may seem rather silly, not worth asking, to anyone who
supports the death penalty. It's really an intellectual exercise,
because as Tolstoy's Konstantin Levin points out, in a situation of
such extreme duress, no one is actually thinking of the line between
acceptable rational utilitarianism and that which is inacceptable.
Sorry for jumping in to this thread before introducing myself,
Michaela, but I wanted to throw my two cents.
I hear what you're saying about curing the diseased and, yes, some
murderers are just that, sick people. However, a lot aren't. We can
talk about social dynamics and emotional scars, but ultimately we
have to acknowledge that there are bastards in this world.
To say otherwise is to argue that human nature can be fundamentally
altered to the point of destruction of the original identity. A
logical ramification of that would be that any, ANY behaviour can be
edited and altered. Just think: no more gays, no more radicals, no
deviations of any kind. We'll just "cure" people until they conform
to an external norm.
The moment we acknowledge that there are aspects of human nature that
can't, and that shouldn't be, altered, we have to accept the presence
of a small but real minority of people who kill, not because they
have to or because they were coerced, but just because they can. The
mobster, the gangsta, the mafioso, the terrorist: they all kill fully
aware of what they do. Consequently, they must pay the price. Now,
please don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating a "shoot-them-all-and-
let-God-sort-them-out" philosophy. Our legal and medical system
should be devoted to finding root causes of certain actions and
applying the correct sanction-remedy-reaction to certain behaviours.
But bastards exist. And when all is said and done, there has to be a
response. Now lifetime imprisonment is an option,admittedly, but by
depriving an individual of a social context, one could argue that
such a penalty is tatamount to torture.
I often ask myself this question, whenever I think of the death
penalty: would I have left Hitler live? My answer is no. If Hitler
(or Stalin) should have been made to pay for their millions, what
about those who killed thousands? Then hundreds? Then dozens? Then
Anyway, feel free to argue all you want. In the great tradition of
internet forums, we certainly will! ;-)