Criminal Convictions, Death Penalty, America, and More
Webcast Q&A: 22 January 2012
I answered questions on acquittals of the guilty versus convictions of the innocent, the morality of the death penalty, alternatives to America, choosing a place to live, and more on 22 January 2012. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 22 January 2012
Question: Why is punishing an innocent man worse than failing to punish a guilty man? English jurist William Blackstone said that "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." What does this mean, and is it true? Is some higher ratio of wrongly-punished to wrongly-released acceptable?
Answer, In Brief: Tto convict an innocent person involves the same wrongs as acquitting guilty person, plus more. That’s why proper justice system presumes innocence, as well as limits and corrects errors of by scrupulous objectivity.
Question: Is the death penalty moral? I understand why people are opposed to the death penalty when there might be genuine doubt as to whether the accused person really committed the crime. Certainly, we've seen cases where DNA evidence has exonerated someone who was convicted several years ago for a crime they didn't actually commit. But if someone confesses to first degree murder and if there's incontrovertible physical evidence to confirm their guilt, is the death penalty then appropriate?
Answer, In Brief: To impose the death penalty for murder (and perhaps other heinous crimes) is morally proper, if the possibility of error in the criminal conviction can be eliminated. To eliminate not just "reasonable doubt" but also any "residual doubt" can be used to distinguish cases in which such errors have been excluded.
Question: What other countries besides America have a relatively healthy sense of life? Suppose America takes a bad turn politically and I need to relocate to another country. What other countries still have a relatively healthy "sense of life" and decent culture – in that they respect reason, accomplishment, and productiveness – even if their politics are left-leaning? Over the past few months, I've heard various people discuss Canada, New Zealand, Costa Rica, China, and India as possible places to relocate to. What do you think of the cultures of those countries?
Answer, In Brief: I'm not the right person to answer that question. However, I'm committed to staying in the United States, absent some disaster, because I regard America as the best hope for reason and freedom. Fight for it!
Question: Is it rational to value good weather over good politics when choosing a place to live? I currently live in a state with fairly good politics, with respect to taxes, gun rights, and so on. However, I have friends who live in California who say that the weather there is so good, that it's worth it to them even if the taxes are high, the gun laws are terrible, and the overall political climate is abysmal. Is it rational to value something like good weather over good politics in choosing a place to live?
Answer, In Brief: A person should judge where to live in the United States based on his whole range of values, not solely on the differences of degree between state governments.
Rapid Fire Questions (58:32)
- What is the mistaken assumption in the question, "What is the purpose of life?" Is, "Does life have a purpose?" or "Can life have a purpose?" better?
- Where should a person interested in learning about Objectivism start?
- What do you think of what happened when the Costa Concordia ran aground?
- What do you think of Chris Christie?
- What does it mean to "assume positive intent"?
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.
From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.
My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.