How Mill and Kant look at Death Punishment

How Mill and Kant look at Death Punishment


Punishment is a moral justice to those connected to the crime and to those affected by the crime. On the other hand, the nature of the crime determines the punishment administered. Crimes connected to murder are resolved with death punishments with varied approaches and perspectives. Two philosophers with varied contribution in different times in history are identified regarding their perceptions towards death punishment. Both philosophers support the death punishments on murder crimes. Consequently, both differ in thoughts relating to the approach on death punishment. Mill supports it with conditions on evidence, nature of crime societal well being and morals of the punisher. On the other hand, Kant contests the value of retributivist, lessons for others and good to the society. Therefore, both approaches have ethical principles; security, lessons and justice to the victims, and also unethical principles; injustice to offenders. However, Mills contribution has fewer limitations as compared to Kant’s perceptions.


Death penalty as a punishment has received support as well as rejection, depending on individual intuitions and perceptions on crime versus justice. Based on that, two philosophers have been recognized for their contribution to death punishment, from each individual perspective.

John Stuart Mill a 19th Century British Philosopher is identified for this enormous contribution to individual liberty with restrictions indicated where harm to others occurs. This engages us to his thoughts concerning punishment where harmful activities are executed by an individual towards another (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2006), hence punishment based on nature of crime such as atrocious cases.

Immanuel Kant a German philosopher is recognized for his works in the 18th Century. Like Mill, Kant is a philosopher with varied contribution identified even today based on different aspects on philosophy. He has contributed towards ethical values in death punishment with focus on justice against the offence committed, as well as the safety of the society and duty to provide security from crimes, hence death punishment for murder cases (Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy, 2007).

On ethical ground, death punishment is a matter considering what is right or wrong to varied individuals. Further death punishment presents both rights and wrong to individuals, societies, cultures, religions and many others in response to their beliefs and conceptions.

This paper analyzes the concept of death punishments based on views of two philosophers’ perspectives. To garner insight on the ethical propensity concerning death punishment, the focus will center on contribution of each philosopher solutions with further assessment of weaknesses and strengths of their views.

Death punishment is a solution to varied individuals based on their views in respect to nature of crime committed. Therefore, death punishment has both ethical and unethical factors concerning humanity factor.


Main section

Summary of each philosopher

Death punishment has been considered by the two philosophers based on respective perception on what each construed as the right approach. In Mills thoughts, death punishment is debatable subject, considering individuals have liberty over their lives. On the contrary, according to Mills’ words, individuals are liable to punishment based on the nature of crime committed. Mill’s conception on death punishment is ethically construed as wrong, but further, he admits it being the right solution for heinous crimes respective to the evident presented. He also emphasizes that crimes determining death penalty require carefully assessment to ensure that individuals are not unfairly convicted. This he relates to convicting individuals and sentencing them to death, yet they are innocent, making the situation unethical towards humanity since death is irreversible. More so, he notes the idea of individuals conducting the death penalty actions such as hanging. In his sense these individuals portrays unethical principles as the idea of hanging represents crime. Therefore, Mill, supported death punishment on ground that; offenders should be found utterly guilty of the crime. Also, he argues that, if the penalty if not actualized, what becomes of the offenders is more crimes, hence his support.

On the other hand, Kant’s perceptive corresponds to Mill’s in support for death punishment. However, Kant elaborates that, the purpose of death or any other punishment should relate to the crime committed. This means if the offender killed another individual, death punishment is the penalty, with consideration of duty mandated to the legal body. Kant believed that ethically, punishments offered a retributivist effect. This means, once the offender was punished, the victims were relieved both psychologically and relation service to justice. He further maintained that offence for crime should be punished for the good of the society in terms of offering security against criminals. Further,  the punishment were meant to offer other people the idea of what can happen if the same mistakes and actions are committed, hence learn and evade such actions. On the contrary, Kant indicates that those conducting the punishment are free of any liabilities on crime. Unlike Mill, Kant theorizes that, the purpose of these individuals is the duty mandated to them for the good of others, thus no ethical deficits.
Ethical issue

Death punishment for murder crime is a matter of varied opinions in relation to ethics, since it provides evidence of justice to varied individuals conceptions regarding the offender, offence and the offended. Therefore, justice is an ethical factor focused on morals in virtues to actions. Death punishment as a penalty for crimes lacks ethical concept of justice. According to (Kania, 1999), justice maintains the ideal societal state with right and wrong addressed on basis of service to the larger population. Further, this portrays varied perceptions with considerations of cultures and religions, as well as states. Justice correlates to both the offender and the offended with regards to the crime committed. The offended purports that, death punishment results to satisfaction in justice attained. On the other hand, (Kania, 1999) argues that, the aspect of killing an individual based on the crime committed, lacks ethics on humanity concerns. On the contrary, the aspect of failing to protect the greater society against such individuals is still unethical.

Solutions by Mills and Kant

Based on the facts related to both Mills and Kant, death penalty for murder crime would be approached on varied perspectives. Mills approach would consider the viability of the process of determining the guilt of the individual. The punishment would then be administered with consideration of the moral values of the party conducting the punishment acts. This means these individuals should be free of any guilt or crime.

Kant would approach the problem with consideration of the victims and the security to the society.  The offender would be executed if he or she executed another person. Further, the ethical connection is the protection of the society and the mandate of one duty to enhance protection to society.
Final section-solutions, strengths and weaknesses

With reference to the views of both Mills and Kant, death punishment is a concern with both the offender and offended ethically considered. Both philosophers have concerns for the larger population’s well being against few individuals presenting harm. Punishment as a lesson for others within the society is a positive consideration, as individuals refrain from criminal acts against the society.  The ethical connection to Mills approach on evidence is the consideration of administering punishment to the right individuals with utterly justice and omission of misconceptions in conviction. On the contrary, killing is unethical aspect towards humanity irrespective of their act (Kania, 1999).

Kant’s positive perspective is the psychological liberation of the victims when punishment is administered. The negativity connected to it, is killing the offender on the same account of his or her actions, hence failure to consider the guilt or innocence of the individuals, as well as ethical consideration of individuals conducting the punishments.


Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2006). John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Retrieved June 25,    2011 from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy website:

Kania, R. E. (1999). THE ETHICS OF THE DEATH PENALTY. Justice Professional, 12(2),      145. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy. (2007). Kant’s Social and Political Philosophy. Retrieved             June 25, 2011 from, Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy website:

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