Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case

By Hugo Adam Bedau; Paul G. Cassell | Go to book overview

3
Why the Death Penalty Is
Morally Permissible*
Louis P. Pojman

The death penalty as punishment for the most serious crimes is morally justified. Honest people and philosophers may disagree on these matters, but I will present my reasons for supporting the retention of this practice. I have no illusions about my ability to change the minds of my ardent abolitionist opponents, but I can hope to clear the air of misperceptions and help those with an open mind come to an informed judgment of this crucial matter.

First, let me briefly comment on specific claims in Hugo Bedau's essay “An Abolitionist's Survey of the Death Penalty in America Today.” 1 (1) Bedau contends that “today it ought to be impossible not to regard death in the electric chair as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in direct violation of such punishments in the Eighth Amendment in

____________________
*
Some of the material in the section on deterrence is adapted from my essay “For the Death Penalty” in The Death Penalty: For and Against by Louis P. Pojman and Jeffrey Reiman (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998). That book contains a defense of the theory of punishment discussed in this essay. It also includes a fuller defense of my theory of desert. I am indebted to Stephen Kershnar and Michel Levin for comments on an earlier draft of this essay.

-51-

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Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • 1 - Tinkering with Death* 1
  • 2 - An Abolitionist's Survey of the Death Penalty in America Today 15
  • Notes *
  • 3 - Why the Death Penalty is Morally Permissible* 51
  • Notes 74
  • 4 - Close to Death: Reflections on Race and Capital Punishment in America 76
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Truth and Consequences: the Penalty of Death 117
  • Notes *
  • 6 - Why the United States Will Join the Rest of the World in Abandoning Capital Punishment 152
  • Notes *
  • 7 - In Defense of the Death Penalty 183
  • Notes *
  • 8 - I Must Act 218
  • Contributors 235
  • Acknowledgments 237
  • Index 238
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