The essence of the argument is this: all punishment must be inflicted in cold blood; whatever damage we do to others not in cold blood is not punishment but self-defense or revenge; what we have a right to inflict in cold blood is a question of the rules of just social cooperation and especially the justice of the sanctions required to sustain those rules; it is here argued that the fundamental principle is that we may inflict whatever punishment is necessary to deter wrongdoing and not disproportionate to the offence; I do not dismiss 'pure' retribution as a goal of punishment, but I do not discuss it here. I invoke only a diluted concept of retribution in the form of the concept of a 'proportionate' response to crime. What I claim is that the infliction of death is not a violation of the human rights of a convicted felon under appropriate conditions, and in the converse that individuals and society as a whole have the right to inflict such a sentence, but I am also going to argue that this has moral force as a defense of the death penalty only if many other rights are in place. Finally, the essay turns to the question of how we should discuss the penalty of death in particular, and I invoke the shade of Joseph de Maistre for the purpose.


The Seventy-First Cleveland-Marshall Fund Visiting Scholar Lecture

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