In his essay with regard to capital punishment entitled “Death and Justice”, which first appeared in The New Republic on April 15, 1985, Edward I. Koch aggressively refutes the claims of individuals who are opposed to the subject matter with seven firm and satisfying points. A native of New York, born 1924, Koch was an American lawyer, politician, political commentator and a reality television arbitrator. He earned his law degree in 1948 from New York University and practiced law in New York City for some two decades thereafter. He was a member of the U.
S House of Representatives, serving from 1969 to 1977 and in the later year, he was then elected as New York mayor, holding the post until 1990. With such a strong and wide variety in terms of line of work, it is my belief that his views communicated in this essay by way of his, logical, ethical and rational appeal are well-thought out and unbiased. Unbiased or impartial, if you will, due to the fact that with the rebuttal style in which the argument was written, the opposing claims would first have to be identified and evaluated before generating an objecting response.
The piece of work in my opinion achieves its purpose and is well organized by use of logos, pathos and ethos, thus influencing a successful but indeed controversial essay. As mentioned in my introductory paragraph, the essay is carefully structured into seven sturdy points in which each, Koch identifies the claims of his opponents followed by his rebuttal arguments. This makes the piece much easier to follow and interpret, hence making his arguments extremely clear and concise. This also influences the readers to grasp a better knowledge of his position hence increasing the probability of reader agreement.
In this logical system of ideas, each argument is further justified by the use of analogies, if, then… statements, statistics, stories and the use of credible sources (experts, scholars). Some throughout the text take place as follows: in his first refutation in which he rejects the statement that the death penalty is barbaric and draws and analogy between cancer and murder. It is my view that this was an extremely effective strategy used by Koch as analogies encourage participation and increases understanding of an
unfamiliar topic by comparing it to something that is quite familiar; in his third refutation where Koch refutes the opinion of the opponent that an innocent person might be executed by mistake. By way of statistics he proved that this was never the case. He cited a study of 7,000 executions in the USA from 1893 to 1971, and concludes that the records fail to show that such cases occur. Statistics ultimately speak for themselves, needing no further clarification hence why their use is extremely influential and in this case, utterly persuasive.
This was a great execution in the area of logos which totally disregarded the opposing claim without a doubt. Remarkably Koch does not end that particular argument there but rather continues by establishing truth and developing such truth by examples. He says “Human life deserves special protection and one of the best ways to guarantee that protection is to assure that convicted murderers do not kill again”. He then proceeds by providing an example, and in this case, of an unexecuted recidivist murderer named Lemuel Smith who was sentenced to about six years life sentence.
This was immaculate! Why you may ask? This same murderer then killed a woman corrections officer. Additional life sentences for Smith, according to Koch are “meaningless”. It is my view that examples reiterate and re-enforce a concept or thought, in this case the earlier provided statistic. This example provided also provoked one’s rational thinking and critical reasoning hence increasing the probability that readers are inclined to agree with Koch and his position; in his fourth refutation where he refuted that capital punishment cheapens the value of human life.
In his immaculate use of if, then… statements, Koch says “if we lower the penalty for rape, we lower our view or regard for the victims’ suffering, humiliation and personal integrity. In the same instance, by exacting the highest penalty for murder, we then affirm the highest value of human life”, which influences logical reasoning and critical thinking, both forms and arts of rhetoric used to persuade intellectually (logos). To conclude my first point, it is my view that the essay did in fact follow a logical system of ideas by way of seven clear points.
Each point was further justified by use of rhetorical strategies to make the argument much more understandable as well as believable. It is safe to say that Koch’s essay was particularly powerful where logos is concerned. Throughout the text, despite not in abundance, there is in fact some sense of emotional appeal (pathos). Although Koch’s primary tone throughout the piece is aggressive, he distinctively manages to appeal to our emotions in some contexts. For example, once more, take his fourth refutation where he refuted that capital punishment cheapens the value of human life.
He uses rape, a very emotional and touchy topic for any individual within our society, and basically goes on further to state that if we lower the penalty for rape, we lower our view or regard for the victims’ suffering, humiliation and personal integrity. His use of connotation with words such as “victims’ suffering, horrible experience, humiliation and increased danger” invoked a feeling sympathy for the victim and the situation by the way it appealed to the heart and to one’s emotion. Rape is in fact a terrible occurrence for which sympathy is usually given to the victim.
It is my belief that Koch deliberately seized the opportunity to demand the readers’ emotional attention by evoking a sense of pity or sympathy in his efforts for us to conceptualize and agree with his point. Very good move! Given the background information provided in my initial paragraph, it is implied that Koch is a credible source. This was an underlying establishment of ethos. Throughout the text, his tone suggests authority as well as credibility. He was a lawyer, a TV judge, a politician and a mayor. He was a well-rounded scholar with a diverse work history.
It is of my opinion that he has dealt with a variety of different cases on a wide spectrum of practice. The area of ethos is therefore implied. Although for the most part, the ethos is in fact underlying by way of his background information, throughout the text you can still witness hints of his authority. Take for example, in his fourth refutation; he ridicules his critics, one in particular, Jimmy Breslin by calling his statement regarding capital punishment sophistic nonsense. Not only is this satire but establishment of authority by way of discrediting another’s opinion.
This in fact was effective as it shows that Koch has in fact done his research regarding what his critics have said thus establishing him as a trusted and unbiased source. Another example can be found in his sixth refutation, where he makes reference to the bible, he establishes credibility by introducing us to the greatest thinkers of the 19th century – Kant, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Mill who all agreed that natural law properly authorized the sovereign to take life in order to vindicate justice.
According to philpapers. org, an online research philosophy engine it can be said they were all well-known philosophers who are considered to be central figures of modern philosophy. “Name-dropping” is one of the easiest ways to persuade an audience as the majority of us human beings tend to follow the way in which famous people ranging from celebrities to scholars, think. This then influences the way society thinks hence my belief that the use of credible sources in this instance was impeccable.
Within the same argument (the sixth refutation), I also noticed that it was not biased or unfair as he includes that Jeremy Bentham, another great philosopher, was ambivalent to the claims of the others. He does not leave out any information hence making the argument fair and believable, which in turn establishes his credibility and believability. He then goes on to establish additional credibility by revealing names of other scholars (Washington, Jefferson and Franklin) who endorsed the claim.
This was effective in persuading us as the readers to understand and accept his point of view. Death and Justice” is an effectively-written essay which judiciously rebuts the claims of individuals opposed to the capital punishment. Each paragraph within the essay is well-thought out and organized effectively. With the use of logos, pathos and subliminal forms of ethos, Koch immaculately achieves his purpose of persuading the readers to conceptualize, understand and agree with his claims and opinions regarding the death penalty.
Although Koch ridicules the opponent throughout some exerts of the text, the readers are still able to grasp his aggressive and almost certainly serious tone. It is my opinion that the argument presented was unbiased and impartial, taking into the consideration the rebuttal style in which it was written. This piece of writing has not, and will definitely not be limited to the time in which it was written as the argument presented is very controversial, and in continued debate.
Courtney from Study Moose
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