Archive for Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Punishment issue

August 15, 2001


To the editor:

I am responding to Don Marquis' letter (Aug. 7). He asserted that two writers "attempted to justify the death penalty for murderers by arguing that capital punishment prevents such criminals from ever murdering again." I was one writer who asserted that, but it was in response to Mr. Marquis' statement that CP does not prevent murder. It is clear that CP does as it prevents those who have murdered from doing it again. Now he changes the context of the question.

First, he says that just because the punishment prevents the criminal from repeating the crime is not enough to justify it since executing people for lesser crimes to prevent crime is absurd, it follows that it is absurd to execute for murder. But that same line of thought also shows that since a life sentence in prison is absurd for certain crimes, we should not give that for murder either. So his own argumentation, if followed, would not allow any punishment for any crime at all. But the real point has to do with justice. Why is it not just to execute a person who takes another person's life? He seems to think that the best way to punish those who take life is to give them free room and board for life. Is that justice?

Second, he then says that "the objective of punishment should be to achieve punishment's social goals while at the same time to inflict the least harm possible." Notice that he says nothing about justice and moral norms at all. In other words, he has no system of absolute values, but settles for what society says. The implication for that moral standard is that there was nothing wrong in what Hitler did as long as society thought it was OK. Thus we find this as an example that moral reasoning leads into contradiction without God as the absolute standard. There is no morality without God and our culture is demonstrative evidence of that. If there is no God, then all things are permissible. Mr. Marquis continues to demonstrate the necessity of God.

Richard Smith,


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