Against Capital Punishment – contract signed

I’m really happy to report that my book, Against Capital Punishment, is under contract with Oxford University Press. It should be out late 2018.

Super short description:

Against Capital Punishment offers a comprehensive, innovative proceduralist argument against the death penalty. Worries about procedural injustice have recently taken center stage in the abolitionist movement, and are frequently invoked in Supreme Court cases, newspaper editorials, opinion pieces, and philosophy and law review articles. Philosophers and legal theorists are attracted to procedural abolitionism because it sidesteps the controversial question of whether murderers morally deserve death. Following in this path, my contention is not that the act of execution is immoral; in fact, I grant the appropriateness of execution for some first-degree murderers. Rather, I argue that, due to the possibility of irrevocable mistakes, the death penalty cannot be administered in a morally permissible fashion.

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Real life leveling down

It is fairly obvious that a punishment is unjust if it falls more heavily on one racial group than another. It is less clear what ought to be done in such situations. Many philosophers advocate for “leveling down,” i.e., imposing lesser penalties on the marginalized group for a given crime (especially in capital contexts) to level things out. But some argue that this response is unmotivated, and that “leveling up” is an equally legitimate strategy. I always thought this debate was more or less academic, but a judge recently overruled a jury, sentencing a white man to death just so that he could not be accused of sentencing only black men to death.

Read more here

“Kant’s Theory of Motivation,” forthcoming!

“Kant’s Theory of Motivation: A Hybrid Approach” is forthcoming in Review of Metaphysics.

To vindicate morality against skeptical doubts, Kant must show how that thought ‘I ought to act morally’ can move one to act morally. ‘Affectivist’ interpretations of Kant hold that agents are moved to act by feelings, while ‘intellectualists’ appeal to cognition alone. To overcome the significant objections besetting each view, I develop a hybrid theory of motivation. My central claim is that Kant is a special kind of motivational internalist: agents, he believes, are moved to act by a feeling of intellectual pleasure that originates in acts of free choice. This account improves the prospects of Kant’s justification of morality.

Capitalism vs. capital punishment

Arkansas is attempting to carry out seven executions this month, a pace that has no precedent in the post-Gregg era. That would be noteworthy enough, but the McKesson Corporation, 5th on the list of Fortune 500 companies, has convinced a judge to issue a restraining order barring the state from using the drugs it procured from McKesson in those executions. This effectively puts the death penalty on hiatus in Arkansas, because its drugs are expiring this month — hence the hurried pace — and because the vecuronium bromide it bought from McKesson is an essential part of Arkansas’ execution cocktail. McKesson explicitly asserts that Arkansas bought the drugs under false pretenses, and that it tried to buy them back. Arkansas refused. McKesson argued for the restraining order on the basis of concerns for its reputation and its fiscal well-being.

via the NYT

Racism in wrongful murder convictions

A new report by the National Registry of Exonerations confirms that wrongful conviction rates are higher for blacks than whites. 40 percent of those convicted of murder, but 50 percent of those wrongfully convicted are black. More tellingly, while only 15 percent of murders committed by blacks target whites, 31 percent of the wrongful convictions of blacks were for murders of whites. In addition, wrongfully convicted blacks spend an average of three more years in prison than wrongfully convicted whites.

via the NYT