The Instigator
Pro (for)
42 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The Death Penalty--With a Twist!

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Judge Point System: Select Winner
Started: 5/30/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,312 times Debate No: 55784
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (51)
Votes (6)





I thank Kbub for agreeing to debate me on this! I think it is an interesting take on the Death Penalty debate, in that it seeks to evaluate the philosophy behind it, rather than becoming muddled in the practical concerns of its implementation.

I would ask, however, that all arguments be topical to the resolution, and that we stick to the issue at hand (i.e. no Kritiks, theory, etc.). I ask this only because I am genuinely interested in debating the topic, and not other concerns that may arise in the debate space. I would consider it a courtesy if Kbub would agree to refrain from such cases during this debate.

Full Topic

The Death Penalty is Moral in the Following Scenario:

The Criminal has been found guilty of crimes against humanity, specifically engineering a genocide (e.g. Rwanda), and engineering a mass rape (e.g. Nanking). There is ample documented evidence, witness testimony, and audiovisual evidence to support the conviction; moreover, he admits to his guilt. His trial was fair, he is mentally competent, and he was well-represented by a team of lawyers. He will not appeal his conviction. He has been found responsible for the death of thousands of people, the rapes of hundreds more, and the maltreatment of still thousands more.


It is the job of Pro to affirm that the Death Penalty is moral in the aforesaid example. It is Con's job to argue that the Death Penalty is NOT moral in that example.


I have--as an experiment and for the first time--asked 10 specific people to be judges on this debate. Only they are permitted to vote. If Kbub wishes to review and amend that list, Kbub should PM me prior to accepting. I am amenable to changes.


Death Penalty: "a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime."
Moral: "conforming to standards of right conduct."

Each debater is free to develop their own, potentially competing, interpretations of morality, and of what constitutes "right conduct."


1. No forfeits
2. All citations must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1: Acceptance
R2: Constructive Cases
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Rebuttals
R5: Rebuttals, Final Focus


...again to Kbub for accepting this debate! :)


Thanks for the invitation, Bsh1!

Although I will try to be considerate of Bsh1's request to keep kritiks and theory out of the debate, I'm afraid I cannot promise to leave these arguments out entirely. I will, however, do my best to keep all of my arguments relevant, even if not classically topical.

If the above is not acceptable within the confines of the rules, then I have regretfully misunderstood the wording of the rules. In this case, I request that this debate go unvoted and for Bsh1 and I to re-negotiate the format of a revised challenge.

That being said, I think that this debate is sufficiently broad that most relevant kritiks would actually be topical, so I don't expect to make a highly kritical case.

Although I accept Bsh1's terms regardless, I request if possible that an exception for forfeits be made if both debaters agree to let a round be skipped (i.e. due to time pressures).

Thanks again! Looking forward to a great debate!
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Kbub for accepting this debate, and I look forward to a great discourse! In this round, I will make some general comments, and then I shall present my case.


Kbub is correct to observe that theory/kritiks are not expressly prohibited by the terms of the debate; it is simply a personal request on my part that such arguments not be made. If both debaters agree about it, then loss should not be awarded on the basis of a forfeit.


1. Please note that, based on the scenario posited in round one, that the unnamed Criminal is most clearly guilty of a variety of atrocities. Therefore, arguments about potential harm to an innocent life are not applicable.

2. Note also that the Criminal has no intention of appealing. This means that arguments over the potential cost of the appeals process are also not relevant.

3. Furthermore, the Criminal had a fair trial, so arguments regarding due process cannot be used to invalidate his conviction or guilt.

4. As a mentally competent individual, the Criminal cannot be excused from his crimes due to a lack of mental capacity or understanding.

5. Next, observe that the Criminal has committed extremely heinous crimes. S/he is not being put to death on the basis of some petty crime or one-time offense. Rather, the Criminal is responsible for the murder of thousands of people. This is a very serious offense.

6. Finally, it is a logical extension of the hypothetical scenario to assume that the Criminal knew, that if he were convicted, he may face the death penalty. If the justice system under which he is being prosecuted is considering that course of action after his conviction, this is a reasonable assumption to make.

Also, from this point forward I may refer to the Death Penalty as DP.


Most often, the objections to the death penalty arise from the notion of human dignity. The idea that the DP is somehow degrading and disrespectful of that dignity permeates modern philosophical, legal, and ethical discourse over the morality and lawfulness of the DP. However, I believe any coherent discussion of human dignity affirms rather than denies the acceptability and usefulness of the DP, especially as a means of recognizing the dignity of each person.

My case shall be structured in three parts. Firstly, I shall briefly discuss wherefrom human dignity arises and why it matters. Secondly, I will discuss where the death penalty fits into the human dignity paradigm. And lastly, I shall tie everything together in a succinct conclusion. So, with that, let's begin...

Human Dignity

According to G.W.F. Hegel, autonomy separates us from all other things. A table cannot be blamed for a moral failing because it cannot choose to do something wrong. A human, on the other hand, is morally relevant insofar as we have this autonomy. [1] This moral worth grants every person an inherent dignity that should be respected. "At the heart of [human dignity] is a twofold intuition about human beings: namely, that all, just by being human, are of equal dignity and worth, no matter where they are situated in society, and that the primary source of this worth is a power of moral choice within them, a power that consists in the ability to plan a life in accordance with one's own evaluation of ends." [2] From this analysis, we can conclude that it is a human's rational autonomy that gives rise to human dignity. Autonomy is the brightline that separates personhood from other conditions, and that marks out human beings as worthy of moral consideration. "The idea here is that a human being, as a rational agent endowed with self-awareness, free will, and the possibility of formulating a plan of life, has an inherent dignity and cannot properly be treated as a mere thing, or used against his will as an instrument or resource in the way an inanimate object might be. In line with this, Nozick also describes individual human beings as self-owners. The thesis of self-ownership, a notion that goes back in political philosophy at least to John Locke, is just the claim that individuals own themselves"their bodies, talents and abilities, labor, and by extension the fruits or products of their exercise of their talents, abilities and labor." [3]

What, then, is the impact of human dignity on moral decision-making? "To be a person is to have a status and worth that is unlike that of any other kind of being: it is to be an end in itself with dignity. And the only response that is appropriate to such a being is respect. Respect is the acknowledgment in attitude and conduct of the dignity of persons as ends in themselves. Respect for such beings is not only appropriate but also morally and unconditionally required." [4] The second an agent is used as a means to an end, they are treated as a tool by which others can benefit themselves. This reduces individuals to objects (or tools) and thus devalues them as autonomous persons. Additionally, treating them as tools or as means to an end may violate a person's freedom of choice. Consider, I wish to get some cash (my desired end). I decide that I can use you to do that, perhaps by getting you to work on my farm to produce food that I can sell. If you agree to this arrangement, and are compensated for your work, I haven't used you as a means to an end, because the deal was voluntary and you were allowed to own your labor and abilities. Yet, if I force you through some coercive mechanism to work on my farm without compensation or freedom, then I have used you as a means to an end. So, when you USE someone, there is no freedom of choice for the person being used; they are a slave, devoid of autonomy. Ultimately, for both of these reasons, human dignity demands a sort of unconditional respect for people as ends in and of themselves--for people as self-owners.

The Death Penalty, and Choice

G.W.F. Hegel once observed that ""in punishment the offender is honored as a rational being, since the punishment is looked on as his right."" [1] The argument that Hegel is making is rather simple. Let's first take a look at a more mundane example first, and then draw parallels to the resolutional scenario afterward.

Let us suppose that I am a teacher, and I tell my students not to write on the chalkboard. If they do, I warn them, they will be placed in a 5 minute time-out. One student choose to mark up the chalkboard irrespective of my warning, and is admonished with a 5 minute time-out. This student deserves the time-out, because they chose to take action X, knowing (reasonable) what the consequence of doing action X would be. This can even be expressed mathematically, as X = Y (action = punishment), so that SX = SY (student's action = student's punishment).

The point I am making here, is that when I freely choose to do something, I simultaneously acquiesce to whatever reasonably predictable consequences might arise therefrom. So if I am the student writing on the chalkboard, I can reasonably expect that if I do that, then I will face I 5 minute time-out. I have not simply chosen to write on the chalkboard, I have chosen also to take a 5 minute time-out. To deny me the time-out, would be to undermine my power of choice.

To tie into the topic, the criminal has, at this point, willingly and knowingly chosen to perpetrate atrocities, and therefore, he has accepted the consequences of his actions. Those consequences become his due. Consider the analogy of a prizewinner at a contest; it is agreed that "the prize is due of the winner. If we refused the winner the prize merely because we did not want him to benefit, then we would be acting illegitimately by not giving him his desert. So too with punishment." [1] A person has a right to choose, and reciprocally, a right to the effects of his choices. A criminal has made a choice, and to deny him the results of his choice would be to devalue his autonomy. "Punishment acknowledges the autonomy and responsibility of offenders and the significance of the norms violated by holding offenders accountable. Failure"to punish can be seen as an unacceptable form of paternalism where individuals are viewed as morally deficient and lacking an understanding of what they did." [5]

So, when we connect this back to the concept of human dignity, we can see a very clear link. I have a right to make autonomous decisions, implying that I have a right to the consequences of my actions. To deny me those consequences is to reject the validity of my autonomy, and to objectify and devalue me. Similarly, it is to treat me as if--in effect--I have no power of choice at all, because I can not access the results of my choice.


There are two ways in which the human dignity paradigm can be used to affirm the moral correctness of the death penalty in the abovementioned scenario.

1. The worst crimes deserve the worst punishment, and crimes against humanity are the worst crimes. This rests very simply on the idea of relative proportionality, and, if we grant that punishments and crimes should be roughly proportional, the worst crimes (e.g. genocide) should result in the worst punishment (e.g. death.) By choosing to participate in the former, I accept the consequences expressed in the latter.

2. If I reasonably expect the consequences of X to be Y, by doing X, I choose to incur the consequences of Y. So, if the Criminal expected genocide to result in the DP, then he chose to incur the DP. To deny him the DP would be to reject or undermine his human dignity.


1 - Perlmutter, Martin. "Desert and Capital Punishment." Morality and Moral Controversies: Readings in Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy. 1981. 139-146.
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 - Ward, Tony; Katherine Salmon. "The Ethics of Punishment: Correctional Practice Implications." Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2009. 239-247.


Thanks so much for the invitation, Bsh1! I'm afraid I'm running out of time, so this initial round will be unfortunately fairly short.

Because we are discussing the morality and philosophy behind the death penalty, we therefore must assume in this hypothetical that there are other safe alternatives to the killing of the accused (such as prison).


Violence against demons

My opponent has brought up an important issue surrounding the death penalty--what if the other person is very, very bad? So bad that she or he deserves to die.

There may indeed be such instances of humans who are so evil that they deserve to die. It is possible that these humans are so undignified that they seem even inhuman. There are many acts of wrongdoing in the world. This person seems to symbolize the worst of humanity--he is guilty of mass rape and murder. Sometimes people make light of serious crimes in by suggesting that the defendant 'feels remourse' for her/his actions. I thank Bsh1 for removing that factor from the equatoin. For this debate, we assume that there was no questoin of evidence and that the defendant does not seem remorseful in the least.

My opponent has made the case that the defendant deserves to die. However, my opponent has missed something very important for this debate. In truth, the evilness of the defendant is not excuse for our own violence. The fact that the defendant is truly awful does not absolve us of our own morality--it does not excuse one's own violence.


We know that violence is wrong in most cases. In what cases might we exuse ourselves from avoiding violence? There are no straightforward answers, but some have proposed that when one's safety is in jeopardy, when one's family is in jeopardy, when one is not in their so-called "right mind," when one kills accidentally, that this makes violence acceptable.

In this case, the executioners and the State have no such excuses. The defendant, as awful as he is, does not represent as threat to the safety of anyone, assuming suffiencent security (because we are discussing philosophy, such an assumption is appropriate). The State is calcuated and cunning--this is not a death of passion, nor was it an accident. The State is cold and precise in its execution.

We could claim that the death penalty is a preventative measure, but that is not part of the debate; and besides, the statistics clearly do not support such claims.

Perhaps we might absolve the State's violence as being an act of punishment. In psychology, punishment refers to a modification of behavior [1]. Rather than modifying a behavior, the death penalty removes all behavior forever. There are many effective means of punishment that are corrective that do not involve killing. What then may we say about the death penalty? What reason could the State have for enacting violence, if not for protection, accident, correction, or prevention?

The answer of course is reciprosity. The State seeks neither change for the better nor morality, but revenge. Revenge is, of course, not a valid excuse for killing.

There is no amount of immorality that excuses the State from acting immorally. Bsh1 seems to attempt to show that the defendant is so evil that violence is not immoral. In fact, the violence retains the same amount of morality--it seems (at least in this case) to be cold and heartless murder.


This story is very similar to examples of violence everywhere. In order to make violence seem moral, many have demonized their enemies. This demonization has lead people to think that their violence is somehow excaptable, because they are killing the 'evil other.' The case is the same whether the 'evil other' is the heartless Jew, the American infidel, the American savage, or the monster criminal. It is a myth--a terrible myth--that the 'other' is so evil that murder is justified.



My opponent has cited Hegel's and Locke's views on human dignity in order to show that the human dignity of the criminal is forfeit. I greatly respect both of those names; however, I fail to see why Hegel's and Locke's views on human dignity ought to be held over anyone elses. It would be helpful for me to see more of Hegel's and Locke's logic justifing their views, rather than just summaries of their views.

Furthermore, the dignity of the criminal I think is not as central to the debate of whether or not State murder is justified than Bsh1 thinks.


Thanks to Bsh1 for the debate, and thanks to the judges for being so generous with their time!

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Kbub! I will now respond to Con's case.


Con's case can be very simply summarized by this excerpt from French existentialist Albert Camus: "But what is capital punishment if not the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal act, no matter how calculated, can be compared? If there were to be a real equivalence, the death penalty would have to be pronounced upon a criminal who had forewarned his victim of the very moment he would put him to a horrible death, and who, from that time on, had kept him confined at his own discretion for a period of months. It is not in private life that one meets such monsters." [1] Con is arguing that, irrespective of how vile any criminal may be, revenge is never morally permissible, and that the death penalty is nothing more than that: revenge.

Con's case, like Camus's assertion, rests on several faulty assumptions that I will attempt to expose and examine. I shall now embark on a section-by-section analysis of those flaws.

Section One

The first portion of Kbub's case ("my opponent...own violence") seems merely designed to score rhetorical points in a build-up to subsequent sections. Nothing much of substance is remarked upon at this stage, though Con does concede, interestingly enough, that "there may indeed be such instances of humans who are so evil that they deserve to die." Con also notes, specifically, that the Criminal described in the scenario: "symbolize[s] the worst of humanity--he is guilty of mass rape and murder...[he] does not seem remorseful in the least." Keep these quotes in mind, as they may become important later.

Section Two

Here is where the substance of Con's case emerges, in this middle slice ("we know...heartless murder.")

Con states that the defendant is no threat to anyone. Certainly, while this may be a philosophical discourse, that does not mean that we should abandon reality's reference points. Incarcerated wrongdoers could, theoretically, still find means of communication with their supporters, act as rallying points or living symbols of defiance, or even attempt to mount an escape. It is therefore, not wholly accurate to say that the criminal is no threat to anyone; yet, as this is not important to my own argument, I will not linger on this line of analysis. Rather, let us discuss the root of Con's objection to the death penalty as outlined in round one:

P1: "The State is calculated and cunning...The State is cold and precise in its execution."
P2: "What reason could the State have for enacting violence, if not for protection, accident, correction, or prevention? The answer of course is reciprocity."
P3: "The State seeks neither change for the better nor morality, but revenge."

This is not a syllogism, as P3 is not necessarily a direct derivative of P1 and P2, yet it describes Con's general logical flow well. The State is not acting on any pressing need, as one might do in an act of self-defense; nor is the state seeking to reform the criminal, since death is an absolute. What then is left, but to say that the State is acting on a vengeful influence? If the death penalty is vengeance, then, Con posits, it is nothing more than "cold and heartless murder."

Let us deal with these problems one by one. I have three responses to make:

Firstly, Con erroneously assumes that the State is the one choosing to put the criminal to death. Rather, it is the criminal choosing to have himself put to death. Surely, this logic seems counter intuitive, but if we refer back to my case we find that, while counter intuitive, it is not illogical. For example, let's say I am a parent, and I tell my child not to pilfer the cookie jar, or he will be placed into timeout. The child disregards my warning, and raids the cookie jar anyway. I confiscate the cookie, and send him to a timeout. Let's review: the child chose to act of his own volition. By choosing the course of action he did, he also accepted the consequences that may arise as a result of that decision. Therefore--indirectly--he chose to be put into timeout.

In this example, the parent is the State, and the child is the Criminal. Similarly, by committing such heinous offenses, the Criminal chose the death penalty. The State set the possible punishment in advance, and it was the Criminal who chose to incur that penalty. Thus, the State cannot be accused of revenge any more than the parent can, because the Criminal and the child both chose to undergo their respective admonitions. So, when Con inquires, "what reason could the State have for enacting violence," we can respond by saying, "to respect the choices of individuals."

Secondly, Con has failed to justify why revenge is inherently wrong. Let's consider what a wrong is, in a philosophical sense. When we think of wronging something, we envisage something that can think, or--at a bear minimum--can feel. It makes no sense to talk about wronging a chair, because, quite simply, what does the chair care if you incinerate it, feed termites with it, or saw it up? Therefore, "to say that a being deserves moral consideration is to say that there is a moral claim that this being has on those who can recognize such claims. A morally considerable being is a being who can be wronged." [2] Yet, not all beings who can be wronged, can wrong others. To wrong someone also implies a choice; if I accidentally spill wine on your brand new Armani suit, I haven't wronged you. If I did that deliberately, than I have done something wrong. So, while an animal can be wronged, it cannot wrong others. Animals are morally considerable, but not full moral agents like humans. That is why humans have a special dignity unlike other entities.

So, to return from my digression, to wrong someone is normally construed to mean to violate their rights. Let's say there is a basket on bananas in the grocery store, and you and I are both bona fide members of banana-lovers anonymous. Yet, there is only one ripe banana left in the whole basket! So, we line up in true competitive spirit, and race towards the basket. I beat you to there and claim my prize! While I have denied you something you desired, perhaps I have even made you feel bad, I have not wronged you. You participated under fair conditions, and lost. Yet, if I purposefully tripped you during the race, I would have wronged you because I would've denied you your right to a fair chance at victory. If we recognize that a right is simply "to have a claim to something and against someone," [3] we can say that by tripping you up, I violated your claim to a fair race and your claim against me impeding your ability to compete.

Dissimilarly, a criminal has no such claims. Rights are voluntary, and by my actions I can choose to give them up. A criminal, by choosing to act against just rules, has chosen to waive his rights. For instance, I have a right to freedom of intercourse (not sexual intercourse, but rather freedom of movement.) By choosing to commit theft, I waive my right to free intercourse and can be imprisoned. The worse my crime, the greater the rights I waive. Insofar as I commit some of the worst crimes possible, I waive my most fundamental rights--including, potentially--my right to life. Therefore, if I have no right to life, no right to free intercourse, etc. it is not wrong to deny me these things, because no rights violation actually occurs. Thus, I submit that revenge is not always wrong, because that assertion presumes that the person against whom revenge is being taken has a right against such revenge. Kbub may try to argue that revenge is inherently immoral in itself; but I will observe now that Con hasn't presented any substantive arguments supporting that claim. If and when such arguments are made, I will address them. Until such time, assuming that revenge is bad merely begs the question.

Thirdly and finally, there is, perhaps, a contradiction in Con's own case. First, let me take a moment to define "revenge" as "to avenge (as oneself) usually by retaliating in kind or degree." [4] Clearly, any punishment meted out by law enforcement is an act of revenge. If I steal, and am imprisoned as a result, the State has retaliated against me. Con asserts that revenge is always wrong, as a moral absolute, with the statement: "there is no amount of immorality that excuses the State from acting immorally." Therefore, if an act entails revenge, it is always wrong. This would mean that any punishment for any crime was an immoral act.

Yet, curiously, Con still asserts that punishment is morally permissible if it seeks to "modify behavior." In other words, rehabilitative punishment is acceptable, but retributive punishment is not. But this distinction falls flat. Even if I'm locked up in prison to modify my own behavior, it was still done as an act of retaliation, in kind or in degree. I did X, so now the State will do Y to me. Thus, if we accept Con's premise, we must abandon the notion of punishment altogether--even rehabilitative punishment. But Con seems unwilling to venture to this extreme, arguing that some punishment is allowable; hence, there is a contradiction in Kbub's case.

Section Three

I would just use this opportunity to note I have not used my case to demonize anyone. In fact, Con's opening, which talked about the vile nature of the Criminal, otherized the Criminal far more than my own discourse did.


I believe Con has just given a cursory glance to my case. My framework has logical warrants in it, and I would urge Kbub to examine them more closely. If need be, I can always expound upon points later. But, as R2 was not meant for rebuttals, just constructives, that's all I'll say here, for now.


1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -

Thanks! I now hand things back over to Con...


Thanks to Bsh1 for the response.


What the debate is about (excusing killing)
To return to my previous analysis, I think we can assume (unless my opponent chooses to make an argument for nihilism) that a violent killing of another human is wrong, unless there is some exception or explanation that redeems or excuses it. I feel confident that Pro would agree that the default position of killing is that it is immoral due to the fact that the crime of the defendant is murder. Because the default category of killing is one of immorality, a central question of the debate is therefore whether or not this killing (death penalty) is exceptional. If Pro does not manage to show that the death penalty is somehow excused, then his only choice is to defend that murder is by default morally upright or neutral. Thus, Pro is tasked with showing that the death penalty has a valid excuse that makes exception to this killing.



Minor notes
Pro claims that I say revenge is never acceptable. That is incorrect--I merely pointed out that revenge alone is not a sufficient excuse for committing murder (for lack of a better term).

Pro begins to claim that the defendant is a threat to others, but concedes that one shouldn't linger on this point in the debate. I have to trust Pro on this one that he will not re-invoke this argument later.

Death penalty as revenge
Pro makes three rebuts to my analysis on the death penalty being essentially merely revenge: 1) The criminal put her/himself to death; 2) Revenge isn't necessarily inherently wrong; 3) If revenge is always wrong and punishment to modify behavior is right, then there is a contradiction when revenge and punishment coincide.

Unfortunately, second (2) and third (3) points are based on a misunderstanding of my argument. The misunderstanding could easily be my fault; I should have been clearer. In my last round, I never once claimed that revenge is inherently wrong. I merely suggested that revenge is not an appropriate or adequate excuse for murder. Thus, Pro's 2 doesn't contradict my debate.

Furthermore, the "contradiction" in 3 doesn't apply, because I neither claimed that revenge is inherently wrong nor that punishment is right. I merely pointed out that the death penalty is not punishment in the psychological sense. Thus, the contradiction in 3 is based on two quotations that weren't mine.


Pro digresses a bit in discussing "rights" in point 2. He suggests that all instances of doing a wrong is a violation of rights. This is a problematic analysis for several reasons. Firstly, 'rights' are highly subjective and quite fickle. What are and aren't rights are often points of contention. For example, would handing out religious brochures be a violation of the right to privacy? Would stopping these brochures be a breach of religious rights? Pro treats rights as if they are clear cut, when this is not the case. It is therefore highly possible that there are wrongs even when there is no clear instance of a violation of 'rights.' Thus, this whole discussion of rights does not help my opponent's case, because one is not obligated to prove a violation of rights.

Furthermore, according to the United States Declaration of Independence all men have the "inalienable rights" of life and liberty. Inalienable means: "unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor" [2]. Thus, even a criminal cannot forfeit their right to life. Therefore, if one takes Pro's discussion of rights seriously then one must admit that the rights of the executed criminal have been violated, and Pro's own analysis works against his argument.

Also, Pro asserts that wrongs are violations of rights, and that criminals have forfeited their rights. This means that it is impossible to wrong a criminal according to Pro's argument. Not only is this cruel and an obvious breech of justice, but it also forms a slippery slope. At what point are one's rights forfeit, and at what point are they intact? This vagueness presents a serious threat of injustice for anyone who could be labeled a "criminal," which could include anyone who broke a law (basically everyone).

If one is convicted and labeled a criminal, then under Pro's framework one may be beaten senseless by cops without being wronged.



The remaining rebuttal (1) is also the most counterintuitive: Pro claims that the State does not put the criminal to death, but that the criminal puts her/himself to death. Naturally, we cannot take Pro to mean this literally (or else what are we debating about?). Instead, we must understand Pro to mean that the criminal killed himself/herself figuratively. To illustrate this idea, Pro narrates the story of a mother who gives a child a timeout for stealing a cookie, and pointing out that the timeout was in a sense the child's own doing.

Let us examine this story closely to see to what extent it applies to the death penalty. Firstly, unlike the State in the death penalty scenario, the mother in the story did not do lasting harm to the child. In fact, the timeout presumably made the child wiser and healthier (in the long term). In contrast, in the death penalty scenario the sentence would make the defendant simply dead.

Secondly, the figurative self-punishment explanation the parent gives is meant to help the child learn to take responsibility for his/her actions. In the case of the death penalty, it is safe to say that the responsibility lecture is lost on the deceased.

Thirdly, the parent is not acting out of pure revenge. Although according to Pro any proportional response counts as revenge (a strange definition, to be sure), the intent of the parent was not only to make the child proportionally harmed, but also to teach and help the child. If the mother gave the child the punishment merely to make the child suffer a to a certain extent without any amount of helping the child, this certainly seems immoral. After all, pure revenge tends to be a poor excuse for causing harm.

Fourthly, the parent isn't killing anyone. The cutesy cookie scenario is underproportional and almost disrespectful towards the persons who are dying by the hands of the state.

Fifthly, the mother is looking toward improving the future at the expense of present harms, whereas in capital punishment the focus is on the unchangeable past, whereas the present harms remain.

Sixtly, the parent can always choose not to harm the child. In a most literal sense, it was indeed the parent who enforced the punishment. Similarly, the immorality of the victim does not force anyone's hand--although it would be convenient to pretend that the criminal sentenced himself to death, clearly the State and those involved in the legal proceedings and those involved in the execution all have roles in the killing of the defendant. Difusion of responsibility is not the same as a lack of responsibility.


Pro clearly demonizes the criminal. Admitting the rape and murder is the worst of humanity is a reasonable and justifiable assertion. Professing that an Other is so evil that it is acceptable to murder that individual is the demonization of the Other. Pro's portrayal of the criminal as the enemy-other can also be seen in his creating a hypothetical with outrageous and exaggerated murders and rape. He portrays the criminal as unthinkably different from and far more evil than 'normal people.' This same tactic of portraying the enemy-Other as evil is what has fostered all kinds of violence--a point that Pro didn't rebut.

Pro's portrayal of the criminals as evil has real world implications. The people on this website may grow to become or are already elected officials, activists, and/or voters. The demonizing of criminals will cause a loss of empathy toward the criminal and the idea of a fundamental gap between 'us' and 'them.' This ideology, if not rejected, will cause one to support or accept violent actions against prisoners. Pro literally makes this ideology the central part of his case--that criminals can be so bad that violence against them is acceptable. Since debate is a comparison of rhetoric, Pro's rhetoric ought to be rejected on the ground that it is demonizing and otherizing toward criminals, which makes them appear inhumane and therefore fosters ideologies that accept violence against criminals. We cannot effectively understand how to deal with criminals unless we understand them as people--Pro's demonizing criminals destroys that connection; thus, Pro's demonizing rhetoric ought to be treated as an a priori issue.


Pro refused to expand on his earlier points, even after I asked him directly to do so.

I fail to see why humanity may be reduced to autonomy (a strange assertion since we are dealing with prisoners who have next to no autonomy), why dignity is central to the death penalty, or why we should listen to the opinions of Hume or Locke. After all, their political theory was smart but is unquestionable antiquated now. I see no reason why we should apply the political opinions of two philosophers hundreds of years ago to contemporary politics by default. They are smart, but not above reproach.

Debate Round No. 3


Thanks to Kbub for a great debate! At this point, I will address Con's R3 Comments.


While I can agree that violent killing is normally wrong...but why is it normally wrong? Because most of us have our right to life, violent killing is typically an infringement of that right. However, there are two exception to that norm, one of which I explored primarily in my case, the second which I explored in my rebuttal. The first idea is that the choice of an individual, as the embodiment of their autonomy--the most fundamental moral element of a person, can override those rights. For example, if I chose to steal something from a store, I am choosing to be punished. So, even if my right is in place, my ultimately right is to have my choices respected, and therefore this outweighs other concerns. Secondly, I can opt to waive my rights. By stealing something, I give up my right to move freely, and must submit to imprisonment. These are clear exceptions that work in my favor insofar as (1) The Criminal chose death--so he has a right to death that supersedes other rights, and (2) The Criminal chose death, thus waiving his right to life.


Con asserts that my points 2 and 3 misrepresent Con's case; i.e. that "revenge isn't inherently's just not an appropriate excuse for murder (the DP)." Ultimately, the crux of my point was not about the wrongness of revenge, but rather that it wasn't morally wrong to kill someone who had waived their right to life, even if that death was motivated by revenge. This is because was make something WRONG is that it violates a right. When there is not right to violate, it cannot be wrong.

Con suggests that rights are fickle, yet, if not our rights, then what determines our moral sphere in life? The only alternative I can see is some conception of human dignity, affirming my case. Moreover, claiming that rights are vague seems rather disingenuous, as most proposed criteria for morality are also vague or "fickle." Next, we can say that certain rights, life the right to life, are fairly straightforward--you're either alive, or your not. Violations of that right are pretty clear.

Additionally, Con suggest that rights forfeiture theory leads to a slippery slope. I am not saying that by doing X crime, I give up all rights. merely, I give up those rights I expected to lose through my choice. For instance, if the penalty for X is 1 year in jail, I give up my right to 1 year of freedom. Thus, a slippery slope is largely averted; there are limits.

Con then seems to make a contradiction...claiming that everyone's endowed with inalienable rights, but then denying the utility of the right paradigm. Moreover, Con's commits a logical fallacy here. Con asserts that just because the Declaration of Independence says we have inalienable right, we have inalienable rights. While not quite a bare assertion fallacy, Con puts forth an argument and just assumes its validity, without providing any analysis as to why it's true. Since it
s con's argument, Con has the BOP to warrant the claim. My direct counter to Pro's claim would be that since choice is key in upholding one's human dignity, choice trumps rights, since choice is the most fundamental expression thereof.

Con, moving on to my point 3, seems to shift the goal posts. First, Con says that " "there is no amount of immorality that excuses the State from acting immorally." The clear implication here was that revenge, as a form of demonization, is immoral. Thus, there is indeed a contradiction as I observed last round.

My argument re: my first rebuttal is not that The Criminal literally kills themselves, but rather that they choose death. by knowingly doing something that I know could lead to death, I submit to my fate. con then misconstrues my point--I agree that the DP isn't about rehabilitation; but I am arguing that the choice itself is worth respecting out of an understanding of human dignity. therefore, even if the DP doesn't make the criminal better, Con is non-responsive to my assertion that the choice itself needs to be respected. Also, in this way the state isn't actually acting on a sense of vengeance, but is rather affirming the validity of The Criminal as a moral agent.

Again, my case is not about demonizing the Criminal; it's whole premise is based on affirming the dignity of the all persons through respecting their power of choice. If you refer to last round, Con has yet to explain how his own remarks are demonizing.


Con has seen fit to give barely sufficient response to my case--all of which lack substance. I advised Con of my internal warrants, which Pro has neglected to respond too. Additionally, I have expanded on my arguments re: choice throughout this debate in all rounds. Essentially, it seems that Con has neglected to read my case, as Con has yet to address any of its logic directly, and who clearly see the connection I am drawing between autonomy and the DP, and autonomy and dignity. As yet, Con's dropped this warrants, and it's a bit late in the debate to rebut them, as it would leave me scarce time to respond.

Thus, I rest. I turn thins over to Con...


Thanks for the case arguments. I will respond.

Pro concedes that killing is generally wrong, but suggests that the only reason that this is wrong is that they have the right to life. In fact, the idea of right to life being the ONLY reason for one's death is certainly a simplification. In fact, the killing of another is the complete reduction of another's personhood an atonomy. It forces the killed individual to never make a decision again.

Pro claims that the defendant decided to die. However, this is obviously not the case, as we are not dealing with a suicide. Unlike the runner scenario that Pro described (in which the winner expected a prize), the defendant does not want to be killed. Obviously, it is the law that has prescribed a sentense for the defendants' actions, and not the defendant himself (else the defendant might be left to commit suicide, which is not the topic of debate).

Pro claims that the most fundimental feature of humanity is their autonomy. If Pro's logic is correct, then we must realize that the destruction of all of the defendant's future ability to choose--the most extreme reduction of the defendant's autonomy--is violated. Thus, the death penalty (still using Pro's logic) would therefore violate the most vital parts of humanity--their autonomy.


Pro suggests that it would be insulting and demeaning not to the defendant not to provide some sort of retributive response. My position is that the defendant WOULD recieve punishment--but that punishment wouldn't be death. (The defendant might recieve life in prison, or a similar sentence).

Thus, my position would not be "demeaning" or "dehumanizing" toward the defendant, because he is recieving punishment for his crimes. I think, however, that there could be nothing more dehumanizing than literally rendering a person into a nonhuman state. The effects from violating the right ot retribution vs. right to life is like comparing a slap to the face to a bullet in the chest. Pro is very concerned with figurative dehumanization, but the murder of the defendant is literal, complete, and final dehumanization. The defendant cannot act as a moral agent if he is dead.

Thus, even if one were to accept Pro's assertion that the right of retribution is important, it is clear that the right to life is much more imporant; thus, one would need to value the right to life over the right to retribution (something the defendant doesn't even want). However, the choice does not need to be made, because there is no violation of the right of retribution.

Furthermore, Pro did not reubut my counterexplanations for the importance of retribution. Thus, there is no reason left to buy that the right to retribution even matters.


Pro suggests that ONLY if rights are violated has a wrong occured. As I pointed out earlier, it is not always clear whether a violation of rights has occured, but still clear that a wrong has occured. Pro dropped this point. Furthermore, rights are social constructs--the rights of black persons were radically different in the 1700-1800s USA than now. Rights change--we therefore cannot rely on them to determine whether a wrong has been committed.

Furthermore, the rights analysis is an old-fasioned philosophy, completely demolished by contemporary philsophers and moral relatvism []. Therefore, there is no such security in knowledge of rights and their violations that could justify murder. Rights are far too controversial.

The question of what constitutes rights is highly controversial, and is usally left up to authorities to define. In fact, the Declaration of Independance as the inspiration for laws and politics of the United States has an important part in the creation of these rights. The Declaration of Indepedance demands that it is impossible for the right to life to be given up, as previously mentioned; thus, there is at least a strong case for the defendant's right to life being intact. Even if one doesn't buy that the defendant's right to life is maintained, one must admit that the defendant's right to life is still at least questionable, which casts doubt on Pro's ability to define a right and wrong.


Pro dropped that the only reason for the death penality is reciprocity (revenge).

Moral wrong
Pro essentially dropped the argument that killing is wrong in general. The defendant is being prosecuted for murder: Yet, Pro suggests that the State should engage in that same moral wrong. I have already pointed out that the defendant could easily be punished by alternative means, so the reason that is left for killing is revenge--which Pro effectively admits. There is no need to kill, so what must be driving the kill is a want.

The fact that the sentence is not the actual act of the crime isn't a problem for reciprocity. The defendant raped, but obviously having the defendant be raped before death is wrong, pointless, and casts guilt on the one's involved. Does not the dealth penalty elicit the same wrongness, the same pointlessness, and the same guilt on thoe invovled?


Pro dropped my entire analysis on the need to reject his demonizing and violence-provoking rhetoric. He drops that his rhetoric demonizes, and drops that the demonization ought to be rejected. Thus, his entire case is already in a sense conceded. If Pro refuses to defend his case, there is no debate. We cannot reward debaters from droppnig arguments; I must therefore win by default.



I don't make any contradiction. I merely point out that IF Pro is correct that rights are the only thing that matters, then I still win the debate because the defendant has the right to life. IF Pro is incorrect, as I argue, the Pro's entire case falls flat, because his 'justice' is reliant on the idea that NOT killing the criminal is somehow violating the criminals life.

I never said that revenge was immoral. I said that revenge alone is not a valid excuse for killing. I'm sorry for my being unclear.

"There is no amount of immorality that excuses the State from acting immorally" does not mean anything close to "revenge is immoral," as Pro suggests.


Pro completely dropped my points about why Locke and Hume should be considered in this debate, being after all so old. He further refused to justify humans being reduced to their autonomy other than pointing out that humans aren't chairs.

The fact is, Pro's case is completely full of holes. Hume, who is central to Pro's debate, did not believe that humans could escape cause and effect, and thus do not have full autonomy []. Furthermore, Hume ardently OPPOSED the death penalty []! Pro's own philosophers work against his case. It is no wonder I am confused about his case, which he has refused to clarify for the second time.

Debate Round No. 4


I will refute Con's case and offer voting issues now.


I posited two ways in which the right to life may be overcome: (1) choosing to kill myself, and (2) waiving my right to life.

Regarding the first, Con makes the new claim the death is the complete reduction of a person because the killed person will never make decisions again. Unfortunately, this is non-responsive to my earlier assertion that the right to choice is the highest right. If I choose X, I am entitled to X on the strength of that right. The most immoral thing to do is to deny persons the results of their autonomous choices. This is worse than death, because it devalues an individual into a sub-human object, whose will means nothing. Thus, death is not contrary to the conception of human dignity I advanced so long as death was chosen by the individual.

Next, Con asserts that the defendant did not decide to die because "the defendant does not want to be killed." This is false. Let's return to my cookie jar example. The child clearly does not want to receive a timeout for stealing the cookie, yet, it is his just due. By choosing to steal the cookie, he chose to accept the consequences of that action. In the case of the Criminal, by choosing to commit acts he knew might result in the death penalty, the Criminal has accepted the consequences of his actions, including death.

Con totally DROPS the argument that the Criminal has waived his right to life. Extend this point. It will be important shortly.


I agree that Pro may argue for alternative penalties, but let's refer back to my first round of debate, where I wrote: "Finally, it is a logical extension of the hypothetical scenario to assume that the Criminal knew, that if he were convicted, he may face the death penalty. If the justice system under which he is being prosecuted is considering that course of action after his conviction, this is a reasonable assumption to make." Con wholly DROPPED this point.

So, if we agree that the Criminal knew that the proscribed punishment for his action was death, then by taking those actions, the Criminal accepted the consequence of death. It is insulting, demeaning, and paternalistic to deny people the consequence of their choices. To fail to respect the Criminal's choice of death would be to say that the Criminal's autonomy doesn't matter, which robs him of his dignity, and disrespects his status as a non-object.

The reason life has worth is that we're able to exercise our autonomy in a meaningful way. As soon as our autonomy lacks meaning (we're denied the consequences of our choices) life becomes worthless, and becomes a living death; namely, because our human dignity, the sanctity of our life, is removed. Thus, death is preferable to the living hell encountered when human dignity is not respected to its fullest extent. The right to our choices thus trumps the right to life.

Moreover, if you accept that I can waive my right to life by choosing to take certain actions, then this whole debate about human dignity and death becomes an interesting sideshow, but just that: a sideshow. Why is that? Because if I can waive my right to life, there is no reason why I couldn't be killed.

Con claims next that I dropped Con's argument that "it is not always clear whether a violation of rights has occurred." In fact, I did NOT drop this point, and made the following response: "Con suggests that rights are fickle, yet, if not our rights, then what determines our moral sphere in life? The only alternative I can see is some conception of human dignity, affirming my case. Moreover, claiming that rights are vague seems rather disingenuous, as most proposed criteria for morality are also vague or 'fickle.' Next, we can say that certain rights, life the right to life, are fairly straightforward--you're either alive, or your not. Violations of that right are pretty clear." This has several key impacts, all of which Con DROPPED: (1) Con has no better alternative to rights, so judges must default to rights or human dignity as I outline it because they're the only options provided to them in the round; (2) Most moral criteria entail some nebulousness, so Con's argument is non-unique; (3) there are very clear rights that we can look to, even if many rights are still vague. These three DROPPED points take-out Con's meager rebuttals. Also, Con employs a lot of rights dialogue in Con's case, leading to a contradiction: Con both cites and agrees to the importance of inalienable rights (round three), but then bashes the rights paradigm for morality. Con's case suffers due to a lack of consistency.

Con then says that rights change. This is another contradiction. In round three, Con said rights were inalienable, meaning that such rights are "incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred." [1] In other words, inalienable rights are permanent; yet now Con suggests that rights change. Con needs to make up his mind.

Next, Con's link is an attempt to evade the character limit. All arguments must be presented in the text of the debate. If I could just say, "X is the link" I could avoid having to provide any actual warrants in my case, and fill my character space with a bunch of links that took readers to 40 page essays justifying those stance. This is clearly abusive and the link should be entirely ignored.

Con utterly DROPS my rebuttal to the Declaration of Independence argument. I stated: "Con asserts that just because the Declaration of Independence says we have inalienable right, we have inalienable rights. While not quite a bare assertion fallacy, Con puts forth an argument and just assumes its validity, without providing any analysis as to why it's true. Since it's Con's argument, Con has the BOP to warrant the claim." Since Con has failed to provide any warrant other than to say "the Declaration of Indepedance demands that it is impossible for the right to life to be given up" Con has failed to substantiate his own argument. Just because the Declaration (or nearly any document/authority) says X is true, does not make X true.

Con DROPS that rights forfeiture theory does not lead to a slippery slope.

Con says that I concede that the only reason for the DP is reciprocity/revenge. Unfortunately, that's untrue. I have always contended that the purposed for the DP was to respect the choices of autonomous agents.

Yes, killing is generally wrong, but I never said it was wrong in the case of the death penalty. Con writes, "the defendant is being prosecuted for murder: Yet, Pro suggests that the State should engage in that same moral wrong." There is a big difference between murder and the death penalty, in that the former is an act of violence without consent, while the later is chosen by the Criminal. The former disrespects autonomy, the latter embraces it.

Con then argues that I failed to respond to need to reject demonizing rhetoric. In fact, I did address this analysis by turning it back on Con. I observed earlier that Con's opening rounds demonized the Criminal more than my entire case did. Consider what Con wrote: "this person seems to symbolize the worst of humanity--he is guilty of mass rape and murder. Sometimes people make light of serious crimes in by suggesting that the defendant 'feels remourse' for her/his actions." If saying that the Criminal represents the worst in humanity is not demonizing, then I don't know what is. Therefore, because Con employs demonizing rhetoric, we can say that this point is non-unique (assuming we both do it) or that it can be turned on Con as a reason to reject Con's case (assuming Con does it to a greater degree than me).

Regarding the contradiction I noted earlier in this debate, Con attempts to say that he never said that revenge was immoral; yet, when we analyze what he actually said (pls. refer to previous rounds), it is very clear that this was exactly what he meant. Thus, the contradiction exists. But, even if you don't buy it, I don't need to win this argument to win the debate.


Con attacked my sources, rather than my logic, which is disappointing. Just because a source is old does not mean it is invalid. I advised Con that I had a ton of internal warrants in my case (e.g. the chair example, the tools analysis, etc.) all of which Con DROPPED. The logic on which my case was predicated has therefore NEVER BEEN REBUTTED by Con at any point in this debate. Extend my case's framework.

Con also shows how little time he devoted to rebutting my case. I NEVER CITED HUME AT ANY POINT DURING THIS DEBATE, yet Con spends an entire paragraph lecturing me on how Hume opposed the DP. In fact, I used Hegel, who is definitely not Hume.

Con then says my case is "full of holes" but has devoted less than two small-ish paragraphs per round rebutting it. Clearly, Con has barely troubled to read my case, let alone poke holes in it.


Con may not rebut dropped points at this time, b/c I'd have no chance to respond.

1. Human Dignity

Insofar as choice is of prima facie importance, and the Criminal has, by choosing to take an action with a punishment of death, chosen death as his fate, it is moral to put him to death, in order to respect his autonomy unconditionally, as the Stanford evidence (my case) shows. Basically, just extend my case across.

2. Rights Forfeiture

Rights are not inalienable. Con drops his slippery slope objection and doesn't respond to my 3 points re: the importance of rights. Conclusion: if I commit an act vile enough, I can surrender my life. As I noted round three: "Insofar as I commit some of the worst crimes possible, I waive my most fundamental rights [including] my right to life." Con admits the Criminal symbolizes the worst in humanity, and so meets the criteria for forfeiting his right to life.

Thanks to Kbub and the Judges! Please VOTE PRO!



Thanks to Bsh1 for the excellent debate! It's been excellent.

I admit, I did mix Hegel and Hume! o_0


Pro's case - Summary

Pro's case is surprisingly straightforward. I kept asking for clarification because the parts I interpreted as having holes confused me, but it seems I wasn’t mistaken or confused. He proposes that there is a 'right to reciprosity' afforded to all humans that outweighs all their other rights, including their right to live. For Pro, not killing the defendant is a violation of the right of reciprosity. He also claims that the only moral wrongs possible are violations of one's rights, and that therefore the only reason NOT to kill the defendant is the violation of the right to life (which is a lesser than right to reciprosity). Thus, for Pro, the only suitable action is to kill the defendant.


Problems with Pro's case

All of the following are fatal flaws in Pro's case:

1. Rights probably don't exist. I gave sources last round showing that the concept of 'rights' are obsolete in a world without absolute moral standards. Pro wants this link to be ignored because it goes beyond the character limit, which is fine; however, I did say in the space of the debate that contemporary philosophers don't buy into the idea of universal rights, which Pro dropped.

Pro claims that I dropped that the Declaration of Independence is not an adequate authority on rights. However, I do not recall dropping this argument, although I do recall mentioning that the Declaration of Independence is the inspiration for all American law and politics, which actually makes it a rather high authority in those matters.

Concerning the existence of rights, Pro actually falls prey to his own criticism. Pro gives no reason why universal rights actually other than his own bare assertion. If the Declaration of Independence is not an adequate authority on rights, then Pro certainly is not one. Therefore, there is no reason to suppose that rights as a whole exist.

2. EVEN IF rights exist, rights are vague. If one is going to kill someone else based solely on their conviction to a certain principle, then that principle had better be clear. Pro uses the example of the right to life being clear-cut. However, nothing could be further from the truth—are persons in a coma for years alive in the same way as others? Are insects? Are fetuses?

Pro’s right to reciprocity is especially vague. In fact, the alternative punishments do offer reciprocity--a lifetime sentence in jail is quite a reciprocal punishment. The right to reciprocity would need to be extremely clear cut for one to murder the defendant because life in prison does not seem harsh enough.

3. EVEN IF rights are clear, rights are assigned and not inherent. Persons of color born in the American South used to have no rights. They were mere property, and could be bought or sold at will. Furthermore, slaveowners had the right to torture, kill, or rape whomever they please, due to their “right to property.” Pro claims that criminals lose their right to life depending on their crime; the fact that Pro is deciding who lives and dies based on who he thinks has rights is a perfect example of how rights are assigned.

4. EVEN IF rights are inherent, they aren’t all that there is to being human. Pro fails to show why there is nothing immoral outside of a violation of rights.

One can see how scary it would be if rights were assigned and rights thought inherent—things like murder could be twisted to be protected be artificial rights. In fact, that’s what Pro is doing.

5. EVEN IF humans are reduced to rights, the right to reciprocity doesn’t exist. Pro assumes that humans are essentially autonomous, and that if you refuse people the fruits of their actions, it is like you are insulting their autonomy—the runner shouldn’t be refused the prize, and the child shouldn’t be refused the timeout for stealing the cookie. Unfortunately these are the only two examples Pro gives to prove that this principle exists. In fact, I gave six alternate explanations for the mother giving the child a timeout besides the right to reciprocity. Furthermore, I pointed out that the runner should get the prize because the runner wanted it. If the runner didn’t want the prize, she wouldn’t be awarded it. Pro gives no evidence in the existence of this principle, and Ockham’s Razor would have us choose simpler explanations for these two anecdotes.

6. EVEN IF the right to reciprocity exists, life in prison would not be a violation. The right to reciprocity demands that certain retribution occur—however, it doesn’t necessitate that it be the same. Even Con does not propose the raping of the criminal and his family. Obviously, the punishment does not have to be an exact mirror image of the crime. Life in prison is satisfactory. Although the criminal may not have expected that, who cares? Presumably the court has the authority to decide the criminal’s fate, and life in prison would be satisfactory consequence to not violate the right to reciprocity.

7. EVEN IF avoiding the death penalty violates the right to reciprocity, the right to life outweighs the impacts of the right to reciprocity. Pro claims that the core of humanity is its autonomy. I pointed out that this is a strange assertion for all captured or restrained persons, because it means they are inhuman. However, assuming that the core of humanity is autonomy, Pro further claims that refusing to give the full consequences of punishment—death—to the defendant is insulting to his basic humanity.

This was one of the strangest portions of the debate. Pro suggests that refusing the death penalty makes it seem “as if” the defendant has no autonomy, which is degrading. However, which is worse—to insult a person by saying they aren’t free, or to literally prevent them from being free?! Actually executing someone is an ultimate act of restraining and confining the other—the defendant can literally never make a free action again. Actually destroying someone’s autonomy (and therefore dignity) is far worse than merely implying that they are not free.

If Pro were actually concerned with the autonomy of the criminal—that is, if the criminal were “choosing” to be executed—the solution would be simple. Just ask the criminal wants to die, and allow the criminal to commit suicide. Pro continually assumes the criminals actions are consent for death, that the criminal “wanted it.” However, killing the criminal on behalf of the criminal without their consent is a clear violation of autonomy. We are not in fact arguing about suicide but the death penalty.

Pro claims that violating the right to reciprocity devalues the person, but murdering a person actually renders the person utterly valueless.

Pro claims that living with the insult of receiving mercy is a worse Hell than death. This is very strange. I’ve received mercy all the time, and am not living in Hell. Godchooseslife tells me all the time that she’s “better than I deserve.” Furthermore, what if the mother had not given the child a punishment for stealing the cookie? According to Pro this would be a violation of the right to reciprocity, and the child would be better off dead. Obviously, the right to life is more important than the obscure and arbitrary right to reciprocity.

8. The right to life is not forfeit. I have shown a source--the Declaration of Independence, the inspiration for American law and politics--that life cannot be forfeited. Although that is not conclusive proof that the right to life can't be forfeited, Pro has yet to prove that the right to life can be forfeited. EVEN IF the right to life is indeterminate, it would be a terrible idea to execute someone based solely on the idea that they DON’T have the right to life when that fact is uncertain.

Pro makes a rather strange argument that because the defendant expects the consequences of his actions, that he accepts them. This is extremely odd for a number of reasons that I've outlined already. I know that driving a car can contribute to global warming, and do it anyway. That does not mean that I accept or want global warming. Similarly, the defendant might have known that he could die from his actions, but not wanted to. Thus, if dying is the defendant’s choice it ought to be made that way—with the defendant choosing, not the State (without the criminal’s consent). Thus, the criminal did not willingly forfeit his rights but has his rights stolen from him under Pro’s plan, whereas my position respects the criminal’s partial autonomy while still providing punishment.

Pro’s case is entirely contingent on opposing all of the above. Thus, if any one of them flows through, my entire case does.


Pro admits that killing is generally a bad thing. Thus, as I have shown that the right to reciprocity fails to excuse the murder of the defendant, then Pro has no reason for the defendant to be killed. I have shown several ways in which Pro's case collapses, thus demonstrating that the death penalty in this instance is no better than inexcusable murders (for which the defendant is being punished in the first place), and that in fact Pro's case sometimes seems to support my own case.


Kritik – Demonizing

9. Pro attempted to turn my kritik by suggesting that claiming that rape and murder is the worst of humankind that I am demonzing the criminal. Pro claims he can think of nothing more demonizing.

I can.

Pro claims that the defendant is so evil that he should be murdered. Pro would literally render the criminal into an inanimate body. This is violence against the demon. In contrast, I appeal to the criminal’s still being human, albeit a very bad one. Furthermore, Pro keeps claiming that the criminal was asking for it.

Pro dropped everything else in the kritik, including that the consequence for demonizing and violence should be a rejection by the ballot. Therefore, since the link fits uniquely for Pro, Pro loses the debate by this kritik independently.


Thanks to BS1 and the judges!

Debate Round No. 5
51 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
And I forgot to append this to the end: As always, happy to clarify this RFD.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 1/5:

Pro opens with a discussion on human dignity, and on the nature of choice. He argues that the criminal knew the consequences of his actions could include death. This is actually an extension of the original agreed-upon case. Con could have conceivably objected, but Con never does--which is going to be an issue later on, as the rounds move on.

Pro's main case is that it doesn't violate human dignity to have someone suffer the known consequences for their actions. I found this to be a compelling opening.

Con's constructive had some flat assumptions in it. There was agreement that "There may indeed be such instances of humans who are so evil that they deserve to die"My opponent has made the case that the defendant deserves to die." Con's argument is that "the evilness of the defendant is not excuse [sic] for our own violence."

Con says "We know that violence is wrong in most cases. In what cases might we exuse [sic] ourselves from avoiding violence? There are no straightforward answers, but some have proposed that when one's safety is in jeopardy, when one's family is in jeopardy, when one is not in their so-called "right mind," when one kills accidentally, that this makes violence acceptable. In this case, the executioners and the State have no such excuses."
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 2/5:

These are just flat statements, divorced from a constructive case. DO we "know that violence is wrong in most cases"? Why?

The thrust of Con's argument seems to go against retributive justice, in favor of rehabilitative justice. But of course, jail does not necessarily rehabilitate. Con asks "What reason could the state have for enacting violence, if not for protection, accident, correction, or prevention? The answer of course is reciprocity". Con then calls reciprocity "revenge". This seems an unfair conflation--revenge is not *necessarily* reciprocity--it can go far beyond that. Con asserts that "Revenge is, of course, not a valid excuse for killing." Why is that? Con hasn't supported it--and Con *needs to* to make the case.

Pro opens the next round by quoting Camus as a summary of Con's position. Pro notes that the lack of harm is necessarily less clear than mere recidivism would indicate. Pro reiterates the notion that the criminal has chosen the consequences of his actions.

This is a compelling case, and Con has yet to support the notion of rehabilitative justice--why is it moral, under Con's framework, to attempt to force the individual to change? Is that not a prima facie violation of their dignity? But of course, the round is Pro's, not Con's, so Pro continues.

Pro argues that moral wrongs are generally seen as violations of rights. Rights, to Pro, can be given up voluntarily, and by committing the action Pro argues that the rights were given up voluntarily. "The worse my crime," Pro argues, "the greater the rights I waive."
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 3/5:

Pro notes a contradiction in Con's case--by equating retribution directly to revenge, Pro notes that "clearly, any punishment meted out by law enforcement is an act of revenge".

Pro notes Con's exemption for rehabilitative justice, but notes that even rehabilitative justice is an act of retaliation, a response of Y from action X. It seems a fair point.

Con takes up R3, noting that "we can assume"that a violent killing of another human is wrong, unless there is some exception or explanation that redeems or excuses it". Con claims that "Pro is tasked with showing that the death penalty has a valid excuse that makes exception to this killing". While generally true, I'm not sure I see the relevance at this time, as Pro has clearly done so.

Con says that revenge ALONE is not sufficient for killing (The shifting of terms to "murder" seems a bit unfair of Con).

Con appeals to a grey area regarding rights. The whole purpose of creating this specific hypothetical seems, to me, an effort to avoid this grey area. We aren't discussion how many rights all criminals give up, and whether thieves or jaywalkers have given up their rights. We're discussing a clear cut example of heinous crimes, where if the rights CAN be given up, there is no question that they have been. Con first quibbles on the nature of rights, then appeals to the DOI as asserting that life is an "inalienable" right. The problem, of course, even more broadly than Con's switch from quibbling about rights to accepting them, is that "liberty" is also noted as an inalienable right--thus, by Con's argument here, ALL restrictions on liberty are immoral, a case that Con's specifically repudiated. Con has harmed his own case here.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 4/5:

Con claims that under Pro's framework, a criminal may be beaten senseless without being wronged. This is a fairly absolutist interpretation of the case as presented by Pro. And considering the case as presented by Con allows for NO punishment whatsoever, the two extremes seem a bit ridiculous. It's clear that Pro is trying to talk about this specific criminal. Con, on the other hand, is talking about the notion of punishment as a general concept--and on that note, has seemed to reject all forms of punishment, while simultaneously accepting rehabilitative punishment. The case just doesn"t' seem strong.

Con attempts to address the notion of the criminal's choice, using Pro's analogy against the argument. Con claims that is' "strange" to say all proportional response is revenge--this seems to be what Con used as the definition, since I don't see any "proportional" response to the wholesale slaughter and rape of many people that doesn"t involve death.

Con argues that the motive isn't pure revenge, but also to teach, and asserts that if the teaching motive isn't there, then it "seems immoral". But Con hasn't given us a foundation to assert that--it's been assertion.

Con claims that diffusion of responsibility is not the same as lack of responsibility. While true, it doesn't really address Pro's central point.

Con's continual use of "murder" is, to my mind, an act of begging the question, or at the very least an attempt to poison the well. The term here is "killing". Con is falsely equating "killing" with "murder", and it gets a bit tedious to read. Con's demonizing objections seem to be unfair as applied to Pro--it is Con who has demonized the criminal, as Pro noted.

Con makes some final remarks that question Pro. But it's worth bearing in mind that the BoP in this debate is shared--thus far, Pro has created a case, but Con's case has not been its own constructive.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 5/5:

Pro addresses Con's rebuttals, and notes their failures as I did reading them.

Con attempts to assert that autonomy is violated by the death penalty. It isn't compelling.

Con argues that under his framework, the defendant would receive punishment. Since Con has argued against punishment, this seems a bit unfair. Either punishment is okay in its own right, or its ONLY okay with other factors--just saying "but mine's got punishment too!" is unfair of Con.

Con claims that rights analysis is "old-fashioned philosophy", and that it's "completely demolished", giving a source. The source can't make Con's argument--Con must. This fails.

Con argues that the question of what constitutes rights is highly controversial. In general, and in terms of "grey area" this is certainly true"but again, this hypothetical seems to have been created specifically to address the grey areas.

Con says that killing is wrong in general. Yet all acts of punishment are wrong divorced from justification for punishment--including jail, which Con supports. Every argument Con makes against the DP, can be equally applied to ALL punishment.

Con's assertion of a win by default based on the demonization point seems both unfair and absurd. Pro did address the demonization point, first, and second, the demonization point doesn"t really directly address the motion.

The final round was a summary on both sides. Con has some assertions that are not backed up, most notably to me was: "I know that driving a car can contribute to global warming, and do it anyway. That does not mean that I accept or want global warming." Yes, it does. It means you accept it inasmuch as you're willing to do that which contributes to it.

In the end, Pro's to Pro for Con's lack of warrant, and Pro's still-standing constructive.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Lol...Exactly. That's why I wanted to run it ;)
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
True, but that's the beauty of it.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Okay. Thanks. It's sort of a counter-intuitive argument, on the whole.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
Yeah, it made some sense, and I thought it was the clearest articulation in the debate on that particular issue, so it wasn't an issue here. It's just not straightforward to me.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Romanii 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: I don't really see the point in writing an extensive RFD, given the excellent ones that have already been given by YYW and whiteflame.... Pro makes a strong case that human dignity serves as the basis for all humans having natural rights, including the right to life and the right to reciprocation. Con's main argument that revenge is inherently wrong is completely devoid of elaboration or justification, and is correctly called out as a bare assertion by Pro. Con's main rebuttal to Pro's argument was an attempt to question the existence/validity of rights, but Pro's case from human dignity for a rights-based morality was simply more well-structured and elaborate, overpowering Con's kritik and successfully affirming the resolution. Good debate!
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by Wylted 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Jonbonbon 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: This was a hard debate to read, but I made it through. It was a really good debate, and I thought kbub used a really interesting point against the death penalty. If the debate had stayed as strong as it started, this would have been even harder to judge. However, I think kbub missed the mark by starting to get off topic. The full resolution was about a specific case where the debaters could either choose to analyze the crime, or just stick to debate the death penalty itself with no questions about the crime or remorse or anything circumstantial. Instead, kbub did start questioning what were the clear cut rights humans had, which could have been specifically challenged to the full resolution. In the end, bsh1 proved that the rights violations occurred and were heinous enough that the person would be waiving his right to life, and this point was not attacked strongly enough. Since this point was able to affirm the pro side, I must give the win to bsh1.
Vote Placed by YYW 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Comments.