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Univ 1212: Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving


When we speak of punishment, according to psychology, we regard it as an action done with the precise intention of reducing or stopping a particular behaviour. Punishments are essential in what is regarded as operant conditioning (Wahome, 2022), a method of learning that uses rewards and punishments in order to try and modify behaviour.

The history of punishment dates back to the excellent book, where a period after the creation of man and woman, we find that the man did wrong, and the Lord punished them for that. Regarding the death penalty, we find that the very first one was implemented around eighteenth-century B.C. It was in the reign of King Hammurabi of Babylon, who made capital punishment a repercussion of performing 25 different crimes (Center, 2023). Over time since then, capital punishment has been mentioned in numerous parts of history. The fourteenth century B.C.’s Hittite Code, the Seventh Century B.C.’s Draconian code of Athens, where death was the only punishment for all cases of breaking the law (Center, 2023). Fast forward to the 1700s, within the civilization of Britain, 222 crimes were punishable by death, including Stealing and cutting down trees, among others.

I have the unpopular belief that when it comes to capital punishment, I support it as an effective way of implementing forms of justice within a society. This particular debate is rather essential as it brings two contrasting opinions on the people’s stand regarding capital punishment. In this particular report, there will be the introduction of six reasons that argue for the acceptance of capital punishment within society. There will also be six arguments against capital punishment. Afterwards, a comparison and contrast between these two essays will be made.

Arguments for Capital Punishment

The first argument that is pro-capital punishment is seen to be the inevitability of death. There is the suggestion that highlights that since all humans ultimately face death, many of whom happen to even be waiting for it in conditions like Cancer, capital punishment ought to be viewed through the same lens. The argument fell into what we may regard as the false equivalence fallacy. There is the equation of natural death to that of legal execution. The former is a circumstantial action, while the latter is a deliberate act (Effectiviology, 2021). The analogy does not consider the aspect of death being something natural. Capital punishment is a decision made with the hope of having ethical implications.

The second argument is that capital punishment incapacitates criminals, positing the execution of dangerous criminals permanently being eradicated from society. This argument can be criticized as it oversimplifies the situation, overlooking other incapacitation methods, including life imprisonment, which does the same job.

The saving of cost is the third argument cited in favour of the death penalty, and it argues that execution is the most cost-effective action within correctional facilities. However, this perspective has a misleading cause fallacy since financial considerations are prioritized over moral and ethical ones (U.S. Department of Justice, 1978). The emphasis on monetary savings being valued over human life happens to be in total disregard of the moral and social costs of wrongful execution and often the higher financial cost of the legal processes that involve capital punishment.

Retribution is also frequently mentioned, where execution is seen as a deserved and proportional punishment for heinous crimes. This argument appeals to the emotional desire for revenge but can be ethically contentious. It mixes analogy and authority, comparing the harm caused by the crime to the punishment and relying on the justice system’s judgment. However, this assumption that retribution is a valid form of justice is challenged by many ethical frameworks that favour rehabilitation over retribution.

The deterrence argument suggests that with the death penalty, there is deterrence to severe crimes that occur (Death Penalty Information Center, 2023). This argument often falls into a correlation-causation fallacy, presuming that the presence of capital punishment is the direct cause of lower crime rates. Despite the use of statistics, the assumption of a direct link between capital punishment and crime reduction disregards factors that influence crime rates.

In finality, there is the claim that the opposition uses misleading data. They claim that the use of the death penalty correlates with a decrease in rates of murder. This is a strawman fallacy. It heavily misrepresents arguments of death penalty opponents to make it easy to refute the claims (Blair & Tindale, 2020). The argument assumes a direct relationship between the implementation of capital punishment and a reduction in murders although many variables affect murder rates. Many countries have achieved reductions without resulting in death penalties.

Arguments Against Capital Punishment

The very first argument which is made against the death penalty revolves around the risk of executing innocent people. In the case of making a mistake in ruling, there needs to be an awareness that this is not rectifiable. It’s an argument based on authority, leaning on the legal system’s fallibility (ICDP, 2021). The assumption here is that judicial systems are prone to error, and the finality of execution leaves no room for correction. Counterexamples include cases where wrongfully convicted individuals were exonerated, often after lengthy periods, underscoring the potential for irreversible errors.

A second argument focuses on the suffering of the criminal’s family, highlighting the emotional trauma they endure. This is an argument by analogy, comparing the grief of the victim’s family with that of the criminal’s family. It assumes that the impact of the death penalty extends beyond the individual to their loved ones, challenging the notion of justice that exclusively focuses on the perpetrator and victim. A counterexample is the concept of collective responsibility in criminal justice, where the family’s suffering is seen as an unfortunate but necessary part of upholding law and order.

Concerns about the just administration of capital punishment form another critical argument. This argument, based on examples, points to disparities in how the death penalty is applied, often influenced by racial and economic biases. It assumes systemic flaws within the judicial system, where factors unrelated to the crime itself can influence sentencing (ICDP, 2021). An alternative view is that reforms and oversight could address these biases, ensuring a more equitable application of capital punishment.

The argument that criminals are capable of experiencing pain and fear emphasizes the humane aspect. This is an argument based on authority, underscoring the ethical responsibilities of a society towards all its members, including criminals. It assumes that all individuals, regardless of their actions, have inherent rights that should be respected. Counterarguments typically focus on the crimes’ severity, arguing that certain acts forfeit these rights.

The inhumane nature of execution methods is another point of contention. This argument challenges the claim of ‘humane’ execution methods, citing the physical and mental suffering involved. It’s an example-based argument highlighting specific methods and their effects (ICDP, 2021). The assumption here is that no method of execution can be genuinely humane, countering claims of ‘painless’ or ‘dignified’ methods.

Lastly, the argument about the brutalizing effect on society suggests that public executions desensitize people to violence. This is an argument by analogy, likening public interest in executions to a form of morbid curiosity, similar to the public’s fascination with accidents. It assumes that such spectacles can coarsen societal attitudes towards violence. However, proponents of the death penalty might argue that the educational and deterrent value of public executions outweighs these concerns.

Comparison Between The Two Essays

Despite their opposing stances, both essays on capital punishment exhibit similarities in their argumentative approaches and fallacies. Each essay uses argument by example extensively, drawing on specific instances or statistics to bolster their claims. For instance, the pro-capital punishment essay cites cost figures and execution rates to support its economic argument. In contrast, the anti-capital punishment essay references cases of wrongful convictions to highlight the risk of executing innocent people.

Additionally, both essays occasionally lean towards emotional appeals; the pro side evokes a sense of retribution and safety, whereas the anti side emphasizes the humane treatment of individuals and the impact on families. This emotional appeal can sometimes lead to slippery slope fallacies, where one event is presumed to lead to another without sufficient evidence. Both essays also make assumptions about the nature and purpose of justice, though these assumptions diverge significantly based on their perspectives.

Contrast Between the Two Essays

The primary difference between the two essays lies in the types of fallacies and argumentative foundations they rely on. The pro-capital punishment essay often employs utilitarian arguments, focusing on broader societal benefits like deterrence and cost savings, and sometimes falls into false dichotomy fallacies, presenting capital punishment as the only viable option for severe crimes. In contrast, the anti-capital punishment essay is more inclined towards deontological ethics, emphasizing moral principles such as the sanctity of human life and the rights of individuals.

This essay tends to utilize appeal to emotion fallacies, particularly when discussing the potential execution of innocents and the inhumanity of execution methods. Furthermore, the pro essay predominantly uses arguments based on authority, citing legal and government systems. In contrast, the anti essay frequently resorts to analogy, comparing the death penalty to other ethical dilemmas or historical scenarios. These contrasting approaches reflect their fundamentally different viewpoints on the role and implications of capital punishment in society.


The debate on capital punishment encompasses complex arguments. Proponents emphasise utilitarian benefits like deterrence and cost-effectiveness, often employing authoritative and historical justifications. However, these arguments sometimes stumble upon logical fallacies such as false equivalence. Opponents, meanwhile, emphasize ethical considerations, the irrevocability of execution, and potential miscarriages of justice, often using emotional appeals and analogies. After evaluating both sides, the anti-capital punishment arguments stand out for their depth in addressing the ethical and moral implications, highlighting the irreversible nature and systemic biases of capital punishment. This perspective urges a reconsideration of justice, favouring more humane alternatives over the finality of the death penalty.


Blair, J.A. & Tindale, C.W. (2020). Rigour and Reason: Essays in Honour of Hans Vilhelm Hansen. University of Windsor.

Centre, D.P.I. (2023) Early history of the death penalty.

Death Penalty Information Center (2023) Deterrence.

Effectiviology (2021) False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons.

ICDP (2021) Why the Death Penalty should be abolished – International Commission against the Death Penalty.

U.S Department of Justice (1978) COST OF THE DEATH PENALTY | Office of Justice Programs.

Wahome, C. (2022). What is operant conditioning?


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