Is it "wrong" for a determinist support the death penalty?....

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Is it "wrong" for a determinist support the death penalty?....

Post  Closet Agnostic on Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:36 am

Can a murderer who was "determined" to kill due to his genes and/or environment be held responsible for his actions and face the ultimate punishment? I say yes. This seems to me to be the point at which the free will believers decide their opinion. They feel that free will is required to hold persons accountable and responsible for their actions. And it seems that determinists do not want to hold people accountable for their actions. This is a fundamental difference between political parties and other aspects of human philosophies. IMHO....
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Not so sure

Post  Marky on Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:42 am

In a deterministic view, any action we take should be to influence future actions. If the presence of the death penalty was shown to make such an impact on society that those who considered committing the relevant crime did not carry it out due to fear of the death penalty, then it should be considered. To date, there is no evidence to show this link.

What is left... if a person can be rehabilitated, they should be. If not, they need to remain in prison to protect society. This is not a political/opinion question.... it can be answered by science.


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Determinism may be Irrelevant

Post  estrempler on Tue Mar 12, 2013 12:43 pm

I think Determinism vs. Free Will actually is probably not needed at all for the argument against the Death Penalty. It can be simplified down to the question: "Is it ever just to take the life of someone for a crime when they may be proven innocent in the future?" And if you have an answer to that question that isn't "No," I'd be interested to hear your reasoning. It's one thing to kill someone on the battlefield, when they are a combatant, but society has generally agreed that killing people outside that context is morally wrong.

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Re: Is it "wrong" for a determinist support the death penalty?....

Post  benuk78 on Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:28 pm

I think the inclusion of the death penalty here has nothing to do with it per-se. It is a different matter. I.e. determinism has nothing to say on the type of punishment.

As for determinism vs free will; out in the real world where the inputs to the decision are greater than just determinism vs free will we can fortunately make a clearer choice.

Lets say that there was no freedom and a person with gene X will absolutely at some point kill someone we can still say that that person would need to be isolated from society to keep everyone else safe.

The real world is obviously muddier. There might well be genes that correlate with an increased risk of committing murder, but we cannot know just based on the gene who will and who won't. Therefore we draw the line at the action itself. Someone who doesn't do it doesn't get punished.

Take for an example this months Monstertalk - the 'Ant Zombie' episode. There is a parasite that infects humans called Toxoplasma gondii that infects mammals. It gets into their brains and changes their behaviour. We are mammals and we get infected by it. Estimates are that 13% (from memory) of the US population are infected and perhaps 70% of some European countries. The parasite sucks up dopamine and ejects it in large outbursts that affect brain activity momentarily increasing risk taking. People with the parasite are several times more likely to have car accidents than those without.

Do we say that 13% of US citizens are not responsible for their own car accidents? No. Why? Because we expect personal responsibility in spite of our emotions. Our emotions after all often tell us to do things that are illegal and would hurt people.

For us non-believers though we have an added responsibility because we understand something. Since free-will is not a transdimensional energy living in us from conception and is in fact the emergent result of brain processes it is possible to lose it - possible, but very rare. However, in these instances of brain damage people don't just lose the ability to not kill people, they lose their ability to choose at all. Ouch.


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