Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics, which holds that proper course of action, maximizes utility. In essence, this theory focuses on the aspects of maximizing contentment and minimizing anguish. It is imperative to note that, classic utilitarianism is considered a form of consequentialism. It is notable that the moral significance of an action is squarely determined by its ensuing outcome (White 89). The quantitative and reductionist perspective to ethics characterizes utilitarianism. Examples of kinds of utilitarianism include preference, negative, ideal, act and rule utilitarianism. On the other hand, ethics can be defined as the ethical philosophy, which involves systematizing, protecting and recommending concepts of correct and unerring conduct.
This paper intends to analyze the sense and arguments for and against the death penalty from the perspective of the principle of utilitarianism (White 279). It is fundamental to note that the outstanding features of utilitarianism such as the aspect of antagonism and consequentialist ethical theories aid in relating defending and supporting ethical and moral issues.
Essentially, the principle of utilitarianism applies to the death penalty from the perspective of the rights of the blameless and the right of the blameworthy. The punishment is only justified since it promotes the general happiness (White 245). Some of the latent utilitarian reasons to punish include prevention of offenders from committing further harm, deterrence, providing satisfaction to the victims and the society; educating the offenders and transforming them into productive members of the community.
It is fundamental to note that, the principle of utilitarianism does not perceive the issue of the death penalty from the point of view of retribution: to punish criminals to give them what they warrant (Pojaman 171). It follows that no one deserves anything; utilitarianism’s major duty is to maximize utility. It is notable that the major impediment with retributivism under the consideration of utilitarianism is that, it advocates the infliction of punishment without any compensating gain in happiness.
According to Kant, giving criminals what they merit is the only justifiable cause to reprimand them. Punishment should be administered purposely because the people in question have committed crimes and not for any other reason; and the punishment should be proportionate to the crimes committed. It should be mentioned that the principle of utilitarianism does not support the two doctrines (Pojaman 119). The principle of utilitarianism advocates for punishment for the sole purpose of deterring in order to reform criminals. In addition, the severity of reprimand will depend on what maximizes usefulness despite of whether it is proportionate to the crime or not. This involves administering a severe punishment in order to deter others from committing the crimes. It is imperative to note that Kant supported capital punishment for murderers, which corresponds with the principle of utilitarianism (Pojaman 16). This aspect raises questions on violation of someone’s autonomy when sentencing for a capital punishment such as death penalty. Capital punishment literally ends an individual’s autonomy. Kant’s reasoning on the aspects of utilitarianism defends its application on maxims (Pojaman 113). For instance, the maxims of criminal actions such as assault and theft violate the autonomy of others consequently granting death penalties to criminals is justifiable.
Similarly, the capital punishment is unwarranted retribution even for the gravest crimes requiring the severest punishment. The principle of goodness appreciates the fact that the severest penalty should not be death penalty, which denies culprits individual autonomy and consequently happiness (Pojaman 86). In essence, the severity of punishment as outlined by the principle of goodness has its limits, which are imposed by both common human dignity and justice.
In conclusion, punishment is allowable if it promotes the common happiness. The consequentialistic ethic on the computation of the relative amount of gain or harm is principally uncertain. It is notable that the principle of utilitarianism is intrinsically better compared to the principles of conseqentialist ethics as it focuses on welfare and well-being.