Response to Sept. 29 “What’s Right?”

Dear Editor,
In every argument for capital punishment, we hear the phrase “an eye for an eye.” This phrase comes from the Hebrew Bible, and while it has become part of modern-day arguments for retaliation (particularly capital punishment), it was originally meant to restrain punishment for offenses, rather than to justify or encourage revenge.

Not only is the meaning of this phrase commonly misinterpreted, the phrase’s omnipresence is no justification for capital punishment.

“An-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye … ends in making everybody blind,” Mahatma Gandhi said.

An argument like this commits a very common logical fallacy known as “argumentum ad populum,” or an appeal to the people. This fallacious argument concludes an argument’s validity and truth simply because a majority of people believe it to be true.

However, that is not the central argument in this article. The real problem that I have with the argument is what comes next.

“Some, understandably, may believe that the death penalty is ‘morally incorrect,’ ” the author said. “However, in order to really understand this opinion, take it from a personal standpoint.”

The author then goes on to ask readers how they would feel if their family member fell victim to homicide. Once again, we encounter a logical fallacy in the argument in favor of capital punishment. This time the fallacy is that of an appeal to emotion, where the argument attempts to manipulate the readers’ emotions rather than rely on valid logic to prove the point.

“Murder is wrong,” said the author. “And that is why anyone who commits such a terrible act should be given the same fate.”

I question how the author can state that murder is wrong and, in the same breath, suggest that people who commit murder “should be given the same fate” (i.e., be murdered in return). With this inconsistent logic, one could just as well support rape as a punishment for rape, or forcing a person to buy drugs from the government as a punishment for selling drugs.

We, as a society, cannot condone the murder of any individual under any circumstances if we continue to hold that murder is unjust.

-Daniel Cooper ’11

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