How Four Ethical Systems View "Eye for an Eye" Analytical Essay by scribbler

How Four Ethical Systems View "Eye for an Eye"
An analysis of how teleologists, deontologists, utilitarianists and cultural relativists view "eye for an eye" justice.
# 153062 | 1,515 words | 4 sources | MLA | 2013 | US

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The paper discusses the principle of "eye for an eye" justice through the lens of four ethical system; utilitarianism, teleological, cultural relativism, and deontology, and explains how and why each of these ethical philosophies allow for eye for an eye in some cases. The paper discusses how the cultural relativist would be especially tolerant of the existence of eye for an eye justice in other cultures, even while condemning it as part of the dominant legal system. The paper points out that none of these ethical systems propose an absolute answer to whether a criminal justice system should be vengeance-based or not, and also notes that even a deontologist would find too much diversity within the philosophical community, since a deontologically-inclined atheist has different beliefs to a deontologically-inclined Christian.

From the Paper:

"The ancient rule of law advising direct retribution known as "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" justice enabled equitable vengeance and ensured social order. "Eye for an eye" justice implies that (a) crimes committed must be punished and therefore justice is necessarily retributive; (b) retribution should be in exact and direct proportion to the crime. When "eye for an eye" justice was codified as it was in Hammurabi's Code and in the Hebrew Bible, it was most likely intended to allow victims of crime to achieve personal satisfaction via legally sanctioned revenge.
"Although it seems plain that "eye for an eye" would have become one of the earliest written laws, revenge is not necessarily a part of a justice system. Modern interpretations of criminality and social deviance post that alternatives to vengeance may be preferable to maintaining social order. Crimes are re-framed, for instance, to promote a culture of rehabilitation or even forgiveness. At the same time, the modern justice system is at least partly retributive in nature. Imprisonment, fines, community service, and social stigmas are among some of the direct, legally sanctioned actions that may be taken by the state against a convicted criminal. Although a prison sentence is far from being the direct parallel for, say, murder, the length of the sentence is deemed to be proportionate to the crime. In some places like the United States, capital punishment exists as a tribute to "eye for an eye" justice."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • "Deontological Vs. Teleological Ethical Systems in Criminal Justice." 19 Feb 2008. Retrieved online:
  • "Ethics 01 - Cultural Relativism." Retrieved online:
  • Ginsborg, Hannah. "Kant's Aesthetics and Teleology." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2 July 2005. Retrieved online:
  • Kay, Charles D. "Notes on Utilitarianism." 20 Jan 1997. Retrieved online:

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