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Against the Death PenaltyWritings from the First Abolitionists-Giuseppe Pelli and Cesare Beccaria$
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Giuseppe Pelli

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691209883

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691209883.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 23 May 2022

Argument against the Death Penalty1

Argument against the Death Penalty1

(p.137) Argument against the Death Penalty1
Against the Death Penalty

Giuseppe Pelli

Princeton University Press

This chapter outlines the foundations of an argument that would culminate in the displacement of the death penalty from the top rung of the ladder of punishments. It focuses solely on the longest chapter, Chapter 28, in Cesare Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishments to discuss the author's structure of punishments. As such, it represented all that was wrong with the existing criminal law. The chapter argues that the argument against the death penalty, which Beccaria regarded as decisive, is derived from his version of Social Contract theory. The abuses of the existing system of criminal justice, which are roundly attacked from the very beginning, are the creation of human convention, that is to say, legislation supplemented by jurisprudential opinion, which have strayed from the 'enactments' of the Social Contract. It then follows with a statement of the fundamental principle which the laws representing the contracts made among men should seek to uphold, namely, 'the greatest happiness shared among the greater number'. Ultimately, the chapter assesses the influence of Helvétius on Pietro Verri and Beccaria in elevating an early version of utilitarianism to the status of an established philosophical doctrine.

Keywords:   death penalty, punishment, On Crimes and Punishments, criminal law, Social Contract theory, criminal justice, Helvétius, Pietro Verri, utilitarianism

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