Recently Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has started to argue for reinstating the death penalty. But the European Union prohibits capital punishment in its member states, and Orbán’s proposal has received a lot of flack in Brussels. Here’s my take on the morality of the death penalty, from Principium.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant believed justice required the death penalty, and many today, following Kant, have argued that to abolish capital punishment is to undermine principles of justice essential to a healthy body politic. The Christian churches, historically committed to the idea of retributive justice, long supported the death penalty, turning against it only in the twentieth century. Indeed, Pope John Paul II came close to rejecting the death penalty altogether in the encyclical Evangelium vitae. What do these competing evaluations of the death penalty teach us about justice and punishment? Does justice require the death penalty or not?