Chapter 4: Punishment and the Death Penalty
Essays (for David Gelernter's "What Do Murderers Deserve?")



1.  

Describe Gelernter's response to the claim that the death penalty is incoherent because destroying life violates the idea that human life is more precious than anything else. Does he reject the idea that human life is sacred? Which do you find more persuasive: the objection or his response?



2.  

Describe Gelernter's response to the objection that the death penalty is being applied in arbitrary and capricious ways, so that even if it is justifiable in principle, it is not justifiable in practice. Specifically, what statistic was the objector relying on to make his claim? How does Gelernter explain the uneven application of the death penalty? Are you satisfied with his response? Explain.



3.  

How does Gelernter respond to the objection that using capital punishment amounts to an inappropriate surrender to our emotions? How does his response compare to Kant's defense of the death penalty? Which do you find more compelling: the objection or Gelernter's response? Explain.



4.  

According to Gelernter, what is the cause of what he sees as America's uncertainty about the nature and existence of evil? What other effects does Gelernter trace back to this cause? What are Gelernter's views about the nature and existence of evil? Do you agree?


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