Desert and Deterrence: An Assessment of the Moral Bases of the Case for Capital Punishment

The controversy over the death penalty has generated arguments of two types. The first argument appeals to moral intuitions; the second concerns deterrence. Although both types of argument speak to the morality of systems of capital punishment, the first debate has been dominated by moral philosophers and the second by empirical social scientists. For convenience I shall at times refer to the approach of the moral philosophers as the moral case for (or against) capital punishment or as the argument from morality.