Capital Punishment, Restoration and Moral Rightness



In order to show that opposition to capital punishment cannot be both moral and entirely unconditional, Hugo Bedau proposes a fantasy–world scenario in which the execution of a murderer restores his murder victim to life. Were such a world to exist, argues Bedau, the death penalty would then be morally right. The aim of this article is to show that Bedau's argument is mistaken, largely because capital punishment in his fantasy world would not be an instrument of perfect restitution, as he thinks, but instead would be an instrument of unfair restitution. Two attempts are made to repair Bedau's fantasy–world argument, but neither of them is found to be successful. Consequently his fantasy world does not successfully provide the conditions under which opposition to capital punishment morally would have to cease. However, because capital punishment is morally wrong in his fantasy world it does not follow that it is morally wrong in this world.