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Beccaria’s and Kant’s Views on the Issue of Harsh Punishment

Cesare Beccaria was a Milan citizen who witnessed how the government system imposed its justice on offenders. During his time, he found the laws of the country to be horrific. In most cases, alleged offenders were killed by asphyxiation and put in a state where the bodies would be burnt. During this period, throughout Europe, people believe that justice has to be done in public. According to (Beccaria 6), justice was not proportionate and seem to favor powerful individuals in society. Kant’s philosophy of law seemed to support this idea that the use of brutality is not the right way to implement justice. He explains that the rules of law apply differently when it comes to the public and their leaders. In some ways, the lowest members of the society seemed to be harshly punished compared to politicians. Thus, Beccaria and Kant understand that the law should be limited when it comes to harsh punishment. Harsh policies are disproportionate, they tend to favor certain members of society and Beccaria and Kant were right to explain their implications to the community.

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The thesis statement addresses the problem raised in the question because both Beccaria and Kant addressed the issue of harsh punishment. Beccaria primarily addresses the problem of public killings to rehabilitate society. In this case, individuals were being hanged and put on a stake. Moreover, he noted that those who were mostly experiencing this kind of justice were from poor households. Similarly, Kant discusses harsh punishment and believes that it was not an appropriate measure when it comes to rehabilitating offenders. Thus the thesis statement addresses corporal punishment and how it negatively affects society. The statement highlights the different effects that negatively influence society.

There are governments in the world that still have corporal punishment. These nations should consider replacing these laws with those that work. Beccaria could not believe that such cruelty was considered a rational response (Beccaria 10). His strong political and philosophical views could not allow him to accept such modes of punishment. He thought that these forms of justice were not appropriate in correcting the behavior of members of society. Moreover, from his studies, he found that leaders utilized such forms of punishment disproportionately. In this case, he witnessed that the European government had excessive power and would impose harsh punishments on citizens. As a result, the elite had more control over the citizens of the country. Furthermore, the utilization of corporal punishments negatively affects the behavior of children. A child is more likely to develop problematic or aggressive characters in response to different situations compared to others who experience different forms of punishment. In today’s world, children experiencing corporal punishment have a high chance of engaging in substance abuse, developing anxiety and stress. Thus, it is true that government should incorporate appropriate measures that seek to correct unruly behaviors.

Kant further supports this statement and agrees that nations should replace rules that encourage corporal punishment. The reason for this is that it disproportionately applies to members of society. During his time, the church dictated most of society’s rule. According to research, institutions of worship, especially the Church were the strongest enforcers of subjection and inequality (Kant 93). At the time, churches were inspired by the theory that Civic republicanism morality could not be compared with Christian morality. The former is active and must involve the city’s political affairs. The latter was passive and involved obeying the already existing authority. Therefore, the use of harsh punishment meant that the church was able to control most aspects of society. They used laws that were extreme to impose and control a particular section of society. They carried out these punishments in public because they believed that demonstrating fear to the public, then it would discourage people from committing crimes. However, these punishments only encouraged aggression among community members. Thus, nations should consider changing their modes of punishment to ensure they include every level of the community including the poor.

Beccaria and Kant believed that the law should uphold human rights. Their arguments were primarily propelled by the harsh nature of government punishment. Beccaria was always affected by the public executions that used to take place in his country. From his experience, he decided to pursue law and was one of the members of an anti-harsh punishment group. He witnessed what was being done to the people and decided to be a part of an activist group that advocated for government reforms when it came to corporal punishment. That is because he realized that such kinds of rules created unsafe environments. To begin with, corporal punishment involved public executions. As a result, it affected children psychologically and physically. Consequently, children grew to adopt aggressive behaviors which may include being violent. As such, they created unsafe environments for people who were around them. They often responded aggressively when faced with a difficult situation. Therefore, it is important to consider these consequences when creating laws. Only when politicians put their country first laws and institutions would reflect the whole society’s interest.

Kant further discusses that the law is limited in its services to the people and this results in several negative consequences. His primary prophesies of law and political philosophy contribution is the Rechtsstaat doctrine. The doctrine says that the reason state power is limited is that it is supposed to protect individuals from arbitrarily exercising authority (Kant 96). In this case, it is important to exercise power that does not oppress the people. This entails incorporating laws that do not harm the people but seeks to encourage good behavior. During his time, power was in the hand of a few people. They imposed harsh rules to impose their authority and instill fear among the people. Limiting this power is an important factor because it restricts government from unruly governance. These, as earlier stated, can harm the public and increase the levels of insecurity within a country. Kant was one of the first scholars whose works were considered liberal. He knew that extreme punishments did not allow the community to correct its behavior and somehow made it worse for others in society.

Beccaria advocated for the abolition of the death penalty because he believed it would interfere with society’s way of life, especially that of the education of children. According to him, he considered the death penalty as a nation is at war with its citizens (Beccaria 9). Beccaria was always wondering how a nation can use murder to rehabilitate its citizens. In this case, he believed that there exist better measures that could be used to rehabilitate and govern members of society. In other words, there is an extent to with the rule of law should be limited, particularly when it involves human life. Governments around the world should know that such measures interfere with a child’s development, especially in school. They cause depression and other psychological problems, which negatively impact a child’s life. As a result, they find challenges in their learning process. Children who experience or have witnessed harsh punishments often perform lower than those who undergo fair punishment. Moreover, crimes should be punished according to their levels. If this does not occur, then there would be nothing to stop them from happening in the community.

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For Beccaria, political economy was more than just a tool for controlling a nation effectively. He believed that political economy was a revolution that gave meaning to the community of human beings. Thus, it was important for governments to rethink how they administer laws. Furthermore, the intention of changing government policies was to ensure the happiness of the people. His suggestions were further intended to remove power from religion so that it could be fair for the people to operate with ease within society. These limitations provided the community with the necessary freedom to perform their business in the community. Through political-economic reforms, Beccaria was sure that progress could be achieved. In his account, he mentioned that such reforms changed relationships between subjects and the sovereign states, it allowed for more print spread news ideas and replaced trade wars (Beccari 10). Despite this fact, he noted that the government had not done anything concerning the arbitrariness and cruelty of criminal rules. During this time, Beccaria noticed that the government was using cruel punishment to educate its citizens.

Similarly, Kant believed in Rechtsstaat which was an idea founded on his works. Similar to Beccaria, he advocated for peaceful life among community members. In this case, the law should be limited to ensuring that everyone is happy. In his account, civil liberties that are legally based were supposed to be shared among citizens (Kant 98). These liberties could allow every person within the community to access such amenities as the courts. Kant believed that a country could not be democratic without incorporating his Rechtsstaat doctrine (Kant 107). In this context, Kant explains the constitution of a country should be upheld. In this constitution, a government is supposed to create laws that uphold the peaceful nature of the community. This doctrine was based on a constitutional government and constitutionalism. According to him, the constitution of a government determines how society operates. For society to operate peacefully then the constitution has to be good. Thus, such negative punishments that involve the use of cruel punishment should be abolished to ensure society operates peacefully.

Beccaria mainly advocated for the abolishment of corporal punishments. He believed that these forms of justice did not create any form of solution. As mentioned earlier, this research highlights the negative impacts of harsh justice. Beccaria had the opinion that corporal punishment disadvantaged the people. Moreover, this form of punishment was disproportionate and, therefore, was bound to cause chaos in the community. To solve this problem, governments must consider abolishing such justice as killing criminals. Moreover, reforms should be put in place to ensure that every person receives the same justice. The reason for this is that the government will be able to unite every member of society. When justice is administered to every individual in an equal manner depending on their crimes, then the community would be able to live in peace.

Comparably, the Rechtsstaat concepts advocate for permanent and universal peace. However, to achieve this objective, a government must consider its people. Furthermore, a nation must become a society of several people. The country should be able to secure the rites of its people and be able to protect their properties. In this case, the government should create a constitution that includes every right of a citizen. Thus, to create peace, it is essential to include the public within a country’s constitution. By doing so, a citizen feels included within society and feels safe. This would reduce the rate of crime occurring within the community. Furthermore, the constitution can include such items as creating jobs for people to avoided issues in the community. The creation of employment is one of the important factors that ensure members of society stay peaceful. Governments should further incorporate laws that promote equality because this encourages the unification of members of a community.

Beccaria and Kant both address government issues that involve the disproportionate distribution of justice. They explain that when political leaders utilize extreme power, then there is bound to be chaos in society. Moreover, since power is held by few people, then there would be an imbalance in the distribution of justice. To solve this problem, states should uphold the constitution. Moreover, the constitution should contain rules that ensure that the community remains peaceful. To do so, such controversial laws as the use of corporal or death punishment should not be within the constitution.

Works Cited

Beccaria, Cesare. On Crimes and Punishments. Transaction Publishers, 2016.

Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. 1970.

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