Cesare Beccaria: Utilitarianism and the Capital Punishment Cover Image

Cesare Beccaria: Utilitarianism and the Capital Punishment
Cesare Beccaria: Utilitarianism and the Capital Punishment

Author(s): Dawid Dziurkowski
Subject(s): Law, Constitution, Jurisprudence, Penology, Penal Policy
Published by: Uniwersytet Humanistyczno-Przyrodniczy im. Jana Długosza w Częstochowie
Keywords: capital punishment; utilitarianism; life; law; Beccaria;

Summary/Abstract: Cesare Beccaria initiated a new outlook on penal law, including the death penalty. In his opinion, deprivation of human life by state authorities during the reign of peace should be prohibited because it does not produce any utility. He admitted, however, two exceptions from the above rule. A sentence to death can be justified 1) if an individual, even when deprived of his liberty, still has enough power and connections to endanger the security of the nation, but even in this case it is only necessary when a nation is on the verge of recovering or losing its liberty and 2) in the situation of anarchy. Moreover, the Italian philosopher advocated just punishment, which can be such only if it does not exceed the degree of severity that is sufficient to deter others from committing crimes. It is evident that the Italian lawyer and political writer grounded his whole philosophy of repressive sanctions on the utilitarian conception of penal law, redefining at the same time a justice-based (retributive, compensatory) approach to criminal punishment, retaining within it a limited function of guilt. Beccaria represented a clearly defined standpoint. Considering, however, the conception of utilitarianism itself in terms of its attitude to the death penalty, we come to the conclusion that our approval or disapproval of capital punishment depends on the answer to the question whether an execution of any particular criminal will be useful, indifferent or criminogenic for other individuals.

  • Issue Year: XIII/2016
  • Issue No: 13
  • Page Range: 45-52
  • Page Count: 8
  • Language: English