The only man whom I ever knew personally who was executed was the Nigerian writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa. The charge was trumped up, of course. “In this country,” he is said to have said as the hangman put the noose around his neck for a fifth attempt, “they cannot even hang man properly.”
No one would contradict me, I suspect, if I were to assert that human beings are not always wholly consistent. Indeed, those who are much more consistent than average are apt to excite our fear or condemnation rather than our admiration. To be faithful to a bad principle is worse than having no principle at all. And, as Emerson said, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Yet by what other law than that of non-contradiction are we supposed to argue? Argumentation cannot just be a cacophony of incommensurable assertion, with the one who shouts loudest, speaks longest or employs the best phrases, taking the honors. And this is so even if Gödel was correct, and there is no entirely consistent system of logic without necessity to assume, without proof, the truth of some of its suppositions.
Yet there are contradictions and contradictions. I mention this because I am going to write about the death penalty, a subject about which almost everyone is contradictory, including me.