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Some states mandate an automatic death penalty for murdering a law enforcement

Some states mandate an automatic death penalty for murdering a law enforcement officer. How can this possibly be just when it elevates the victim above that of common civilians? I agree with the Aristotelian conception of justice as only partially overlapping that of morality but consistency is crucial to rationality in both judgment and conduct. Actions ought to be judged similarly unless there are morally relevant dissimilarities between them so a law-abiding or even a vindictive police officer, already armed and aware of the risks of his profession, is the same as any other civilian, both legally and morally. Common law jurisdictions work on the basis that all citizens are equal in intrinsic worth--wouldn't the imperative be to either entirely repeal the death penalty for murder or use it in every single instance?

I'm going to largely duck your last question: I doubt even the most enthusiastic proponents of the death penalty believe it should be imposed for every murder. Most jurisdictions distinguish between first-degree murder, second-degree, etc., precisely because not all murders are morally serious enough to merit the death penalty (which it is not to say that any murder merits the death penalty).

But on to your main question: Should the death penalty be automatic for murdering a law enforcement officer but not automatic for murdering anyone else? I can think of three possible rationales for an affirmative answer. I'm not sure I find any of them convincing, but I'll leave that to your judgment.

The first is that killing law enforcement is morally worse than killing someone else and so automatically deserves a harsh punishment. Your position seems to be that this is not so: That in order for killing law enforcement to be morally worse than killing someone else, there must be something about the officer that lends the officer more 'intrinsic worth' than the typical citizen. I agree that is probably not a very promising way of explaining how killing law enforcement might be morally worse than killing others. But a slightly more attractive thought is that killing law enforcement reflects more negatively on the character of the murderer than does killing someone else. Perhaps killing law enforcement shows greater contempt for law and legal norms.

A second possible way to defend the automatic death penalty in such cases is to suggest that because police work is inherently dangerous, the law should impose additional penalties on killing law enforcement in order to discourage such killings. Law enforcement are unusually vulnerable to be killed, so preventing them from being killed may require punishments that are harsh and unambiguous. A further consideration of this sort is that perhaps it would be harder to recruit police without this harsh penalty for killing them.

A final rationale rests on what's often called the 'expressive' theory of punishment. This view says that punishment is justified as our moral condemnation of a criminal's wrongful act. If the killing of police induces greater outrage than the killing of others, then (according to this theory), those who kill police should be shown less leniency than those who kill others. Obvious question to ask here: What, if anything, justifies our greater outrage at killing law enforcement? It might seem that this rationale ends up requiring, or collapsing into, the first: that those who kill police show themselves to be morally worse than those who kill others.

And let me add: Great question! (To my knowledge, philosophers haven't taken up this issue directly.)

Recently, Indonesia executed several people, mostly foreigners, for drug

Recently, Indonesia executed several people, mostly foreigners, for drug trafficking. This has been justified on at least two grounds: 1) Countries have diffferent norms and political cultures, and it's (Western) arrogance to tell them their way of doing things is wrong. 2) The executed knew the risk they were taking and the consequences of breaking another nation's laws, therefore, they got what they deserved and have only themselves to blame. Any comments? Thanks.

Two comments.

The first is that if you have a good reason to think something is wrong, the fact that it happened in another country or culture isn't a reason not to say so. I'm happy to put the shoe on the other foot. If there are practices in my country (the US) that someone from elsewhere has reason to think are wrong (and I'm sure there are), I wouldn't think it was arrogant to offer up the criticism. I agree that there are serious questions about the history of Western behavior toward other countries, but we can distinguish the issues at least conceptually. For example: I'm quite willing to say that it's wrong for a country to execute people for being homosexual, whether or not the West has things to answer for in how it has dealt with that country. There may be more or less arrogant ways of making the point, but that doesn't make the criticism illegitimate or inappropriate.

The second point is that if it's wrong to execute people for drug trafficking, then the traffickers don't deserve to be executed for it, even if they knew what the penalty was. Go back to the case just discussed: whatever the law may be, and however well aware someone was of it, no one deserves to be executed for having a homosexual relationship. That means that the blame doesn't stop with the lawbreaker. The country with the bad laws shares the blame. And if the law is egregious enough (as I'd say it is in the case of executing homosexual people), then I'm not willing to put any of the moral blame on the victim.

Is rape always immoral? Could it be justified under jurisprudence as punishment

Is rape always immoral? Could it be justified under jurisprudence as punishment for a crime or under environmental ethics to save the human race in the event of a near human extinction?

Someone might say that punishment should fit the crime and therefore that raping rapists is a just punishment. Someone might also say that torturing torturers is a just punishment. My reaction is that examples like this show the unacceptability of a strict "eye for an eye" notion of justice. Torturing someone as a form of punishment strikes me as depraved; so does raping a rapist. Torture and rape are crimes that show an utter and complete lack of respect for the victim's humanity. That's something that an acceptable judicial system should avoid, in my opinion.

As for your hypothetical about rape in the case of near-extinction, I don't feel the force. Why is the continued existence of humanity so important that it would justify raping an unwilling woman and forcing her to carry a baby? Is the sort of "civilization" that would stoop to such things work preserving? What's so hot about humanity from the point of view of the cosmos?

Are there any circumstances that would justify a different conclusion? Perhaps there are hypotheticals so horrifying that the answer is yes. But that's the point: those hypotheticals would indeed be utterly horrifying. They're unlikely (one hopes!) to give us any guidance in the kinds of situations we're likely to face.

Is one ever morally justified to beat someone up for making sexist and/or

Is one ever morally justified to beat someone up for making sexist and/or misogynist comments (this is a serious question)?

I can't see how it could be. Beating up someone for making sexist or misogynist comments is using physical violence to punish the commenter. That seems like literally the wrong type of reaction to merely verbal misconduct. (Notice that we don't punish slander or libel that way.) It's something like a category mistake, in addition to being a moral mistake.

Many prison sentences are far more damaging than the crime which led to the

Many prison sentences are far more damaging than the crime which led to the sentence. To what extent is that morally justified?

Good question. I assume you mean that they are more damaging overall, to the universe as a whole, rather than just to the person imprisoned.

Two arguments are typically offered to justify punitive sentences: retribution and deterrence. Personally, I can see no moral justification for retribution. It just seems to be a product of a primitive eye-for-an-eye kind of gut reaction that humans could and should transcend. Forgiveness, with a view making the world a better place for everyone, seems to me a worthier ideal. Deterrence is a different kettle of fish. As matters now stand many humans will commit crimes if not deterred. Given the deterrent value of prison sentences, it is hard to judge whether, on balance, they are damaging or beneficial to society as a whole. In cases where the deterrent value is high, that can provide a very good and morally acceptable reason to imprison offenders on occasion, even if it does the offender far more harm than good – in my opinion, anyway. But if the deterrent value is very low or non-existent, and the damaging effects are high, justification is lacking.

Is it moral to behave only in terms of fearing punishment? For example, suppose

Is it moral to behave only in terms of fearing punishment? For example, suppose the only reason a person has for not behaving immorally is the fear of divine punishment. Since his actions yield the same results as another non-immoral person who has no fear of divine punishment, why does it matter what reasons give the same results?

Your question: "Is it moral?", can be asked about the conduct and the person. As you describe the case, the conduct is moral (i.e., morally above reproach), but the person arguably is not because he has no concern for the rights, needs and interests of other people. What does it matter, you ask, if the results are the same? Just think about living with someone who genuinely cares about you versus with someone who behaves the same way out of fear that, if she is not nice to you, she will be punished by losing out on the benefits of your mother's fortune. Or think about a whole world in which any consideration people show one another is motivated solely by a selfish concern over rewards and punishments. The value of human civilization cannot lie exclusively in right conduct -- robots could be programmed to produce that more reliably than human beings -- it must lie, in large part at least, in the nobility of human motivations.

Philosophically (not legally), how should this fallacy be resolved? A convicted

Philosophically (not legally), how should this fallacy be resolved? A convicted felon is sentenced to both life imprisonment for a drug related murder AND the death penalty for a separate act of terrorism. Should he be put to death or should the life imprisonment override the death penalty? In other words, if sentences cannot be concurrently served, should the more severe one be served first?

One small point needs attention. If a man is serving a life sentence and is put to death for a different crime, then his life ends and the life sentence has been completed.

Suppose a stranger steals 100$ from me, then has second thoughts and puts it

Suppose a stranger steals 100$ from me, then has second thoughts and puts it back, before I ever come to look for or need the 100$. If discovered, should he be punished? Why or why not?

I am tempted to ask: What would you think if the roles were reversed, and you were the one who took the $100 from a stranger and what you would hope the stranger's response would be if it was discovered that you took the money and then gave it back? But I will try a different approach. Taking the case as you describe it: I suggest you would be within your rights (and not wrong) to report this as a theft and the stranger would then face whatever penalty the law specifies for petty theft, but I think you would also be within your rights (and not wrong) to not report this. Imagine that the stranger changed his or her mind within just two minutes and apologized profusely to you, perhaps even offering you the lottery ticket he just bought (and did not steal) and this gives you a finite chance of winning millions later in the week. Still, a theft or stealing has taken place even it the funds are returned. Imagine that the stranger stole millions from a pension account for hundreds of vulnerable, retired people. Even if never detected and the money is returned with interest after a week, the person wrongfully took possession of something that he or she was not entitled to. We might even consider a more dramatic case: imagine a stranger puts a poison in your coffee that you do not detect and it will kill you after 24 hours. After 23 hours the stranger repents. He happens to have a cure that will remove the poison from your system, leaving no trace and, instead will actually provide you with life-extending vitamins. Imagine the stranger is able to put the cure in your sparkling water and the only difference you notice is a renewed sense of vitality and cheer. If discovered later (perhaps there is a reliable informant who discloses what took place or the stranger confesses or the poison and cure-maker comes forward), I think most of us would think (rightly) that the stranger was guilty of attempted murder and that the state has a legitimate reason to take action in the form of punishment (or perhaps committal to a psychiatric ward until one may be certain that the stranger has been cured of whatever pathology drove her or him to put you through this threatening experience).

Is mercy on an offender a lack of justice? That is, if an offender is treated

Is mercy on an offender a lack of justice? That is, if an offender is treated mercifully, as in, given less punishment than is warranted, doesn't that mean the offender is given less justice than is warranted?

One straightforward way to see that this is not so starts from the realization that the criminal law cannot perfectly anticipate all realistically possible cases. This is so for at least three reasons. First, human powers of anticipation are limited. Second, a criminal law doing justice to all realistically possible cases would be too complex for citizens and officials to comprehend. Third, such a criminal law would also be impossible to administer fairly because it would give criminals too many opportunities to escape punishment. Example: recognizing a rare, morally valid excuse in the law might be a bad idea if the absence of this excuse is very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

We can expect, then, that in some cases punishments warranted under even the best-designed and -administered criminal law are excessive. In those cases, at least, mercy would not be unjust. For example, we may pardon an offender because we are convinced that he has a morally valid excuse that the law, for good reasons, fails to recognize (i.e., does not allow judges and juries to take into account).

Do philosophers who believe in a naturalistic and deterministic world and assert

Do philosophers who believe in a naturalistic and deterministic world and assert a compatabilist theory of free will believe that people who do very wrong things should be punished as an expression of retribution or to make the person realize how bad they are? (Rather than the use of punishment as discouragement) I find it fascinating and deeply disturbing that philosophers would want to punish people who are perfectly innocent according to a incompatibilist ethical system.

On the substance of your question, it may well be that different philosophers will respond differently, though I'd guess that naturalist/determinist/compatibilist more often goes with a view of punishment as having broadly utilitarian goals rather than retributivist ones. But I was struck by your last sentence: you find it disturbing that compatibilists would be willing to punish people whom incompatibilists see as innocent. Isn't this really just a way of siding with the incompatibilists? Compatibilists argue at length that we can be morally responsible even if determinism is true. Indeed, some compatibilists have argued (Hobart is a famous example from many decades ago) that we can't be responsible unless determinism is true. If compatibilists can make their case, then their point of view is only superficially disturbing. The apparently disturbing character, they would argue, is an illusion borne of misunderstanding what's required for moral responsibility. The compatibilist, in other words, thinks there's a strong case that these "innocents" aren't really innocent. Whether they have the better case is, of course, a matter of debate. But they do have arguments to offer.

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