Caribbean Journal of Philosophy, Vol 12, No 1 (2020)

George Wright’s Metaphysical Argument against the Death Penalty

Jare Oladosu


The debate on the morality of the death penalty is as old as human civilization. There is good reason to believe that the debate will continue unabated, even if abolitionist dream of a universal eradication of the penalty is realized. Those who advocate for the retention of the punishment - retentionists – support their position with a variety of arguments; the two most prominent are the argument from retribution and the argument from deterrence. Opponents of the death penalty – the abolitionists – have also adduced strong arguments to support their campaign for its total abolition. This paper will examine a major abolitionist argument. Arguably, the omnibus case against the death penalty is the argument constructed around the unique sacredness or uniqueness of human life. I refer to this line of reasoning as the metaphysical argument against the death penalty. In this paper I will undertake a comprehensive and critical review of R. George Wright’s statement of the metaphysical argument. My conclusion is that while the argument is plausible, indeed valid, as Wright states it, it is philosophically unsound, because the premises from which Wright purports to derive his abolitionist conclusion are composed of, at best, contingently true or worse, out rightly false propositions.

Keywords: death penalty metaphysical argument against

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