The question should really be, “whose approach to justice is more ethical?” Or even, “Whose actions are more ethical?”
Regardless, for those who don’t know, Daredevil is a comic book hero as well as a character in a Netflix tv series by the same name. He was blinded by radioactive goo when he was a child but his other senses were heightened by the same accident. As an adult, he is a lawyer by day but a superhero vigilante by night. He lives in a crime ridden area but he does not kill “bad guys” but turns them over to law enforcement. He believes in using the justice system to deal with criminals but often finds law enforcement and the justice system ineffective at putting away these criminals.
In season 2 of the Netflix Daredevil show, a new character, The Punisher, is introduced who has a fundamentally different approach to the Daredevil. The Punisher also goes after bad guys but does not apprehend or arrest them, he kills them. The two characters have the same interest in dealing with crime and often have the same targets but think about justice, morality and ethics differently.
This disagreement is often the conflict in superhero narratives that pit the Consequentialists with the Deontologists.
In order to explore the questions mentioned above, consider the following: Below are two scenes from the tv show in which the two characters talk and argue about their competing approaches.
Download Handout: Punisher vs Daredevil Handout
After that, a couple of articles about the same question.
Why The Punisher Is ‘Daredevil’s’ Most Moral Character
“The only moral thing to do to criminals who murder at will in a world where the government authorities are, at best, ineffective or, at worst, corrupt is stop them for good. Kill them. Make sure they can’t kill any innocent people ever again”
Mistaking the Punisher as Moral
“That said, is Frank Castle morally justified /inside the bounds of the world he is placed/ to be an ultraviolent vigilante? You have said yes — because there is no system of justice to appeal to. In a world where the way government is executed is utterly corrupt and at the same time the mechanisms for gaining justice are utterly shrouded in unknowns (and my in fact be unobtainable), it seems to be your view that the individual is then morally obligated to take matters into his own hands.”
Daredevil’s Meditations on Morality
This article focuses more on the Catholic roots of Daredevil’s ethics rather than contrasting him with the Punisher.
“Far from being a killer in the shadows however, his Christian faith instils in him a morality of sin and repentance, which is why he never kills.”
How Netflix’s New Daredevil Series Makes Torture Into a Virtue
This article also has a different focus from the question but still informs the question of whether the Daredevil behaves ethically. His use of extra judicial physical punishment and torture is central to his character. Though he comes short of killing “bad guys,” is he behaving ethically?
“But even if Daredevil is not an agent of the state, his use of torture still serves (and arguably even validates) official power. The Kingpin’s final downfall is engineered when Daredevil terrorizes a witness into turning state’s evidence. The guy agrees after Daredevil threatens him—and then the hero hits him another few times, just to emphasize the righteous motivating force of unaccountable brutality. The episode then moves on to a collage of FBI agents rounding up the bad guys.
“The hero tortures and that torture races through the legal system, righting wrongs. Information gained through torture is not a poisoned fruit; it’s justice itself.”