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Sometimes giving a person a choice is an act of terrible cruelty

by Lisa Tessman

It is not always good to have the opportunity to make a choice. When we must decide to take one action rather than another, we also, ordinarily, become at least partly responsible for what we choose to do. Usually this is appropriate; it’s what makes us the kinds of creatures who can be expected to abide by moral norms.

Sometimes, making a choice works well. For instance, imagine that while leaving the supermarket parking lot you accidentally back into another car, visibly denting it. No one else is around, nor do you think there are any surveillance cameras. You face a choice: you could drive away, fairly confident that no one will ever find out that you damaged someone’s property, or you could leave a note on the dented car’s windshield, explaining what happened and giving contact information, so that you can compensate the car’s owner.

Obviously, the right thing to do is to leave a note. If you don’t do this, you’ve committed a wrongdoing that you could have avoided just by making a different choice. Even though you might not like having to take responsibility – and paying up – it’s good to be in the position of being able to do the right thing.

Yet sometimes, having a choice means deciding to commit one bad act or another. Imagine being a doctor or nurse caught in the following fictionalised version of real events at a hospital in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Due to a tremendous level of flooding after the hurricane, the hospital must be evacuated. The medical staff have been ordered to get everyone out by the end of the day, but not all patients can be removed. As time runs out, it becomes clear that you have a choice, but it’s a choice between two horrifying options: euthanise the remaining patients without consent (because many of them are in a condition that renders them unable to give it) or abandon them to suffer a slow, painful and terrifying death alone. Even if you’re anguished at the thought of making either choice, you might be confident that one action – let’s say administering a lethal dose of drugs – is better than the other. Nevertheless, you might have the sense that no matter which action you perform, you’ll be violating a moral requirement.

Are there situations, perhaps including this one, in which all the things that you could do are things that would be morally wrong for you to do? If the answer is yes, then there are some situations in which moral failure is unavoidable. In the case of the flooded hospital, what you morally should do is something impossible: you should both avoid killing patients without consent and avoid leaving them to suffer a painful death. You’re required to do the impossible.

To say this is to go against something that many moral philosophers believe. That’s because many moral philosophers have adopted a principle – attributed to the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant – that for an act to be morally obligatory, it must also be possible: so the impossible cannot be morally required. This principle is typically expressed by moral philosophers with the phrase: ‘Ought implies can.’ In other words, you can only be obligated to do something if you’re also able to do it.

This line of thought is certainly appealing. First of all, it might seem unfair to be obligated to do something that you were unable to do. Second, if morality is supposed to serve as a guide to help us decide what to do in any given situation, and we can’t actually do the impossible, it might seem that talking about impossible moral requirements is pointless. But if you’ve had the experience of being required to do the impossible, it might be appealing to push back: ought does not imply can. Acknowledging this could help make sense of your experience, even if it doesn’t also guide you in decisions about what to do.

We can’t blame other people for having committed an unavoidable moral wrongdoing as long as they chose the best of the possible options; we only appropriately blame people when they could have chosen to do something better than what they did do. However, when we ourselves are in situations in which we perform the best action we can – but it’s still something that we’d clearly be morally forbidden from ever choosing if we had a better option – we’re likely to hold ourselves responsible. Our intuitive moral judgments may still tell us, if we choose to perform an action that’s normally unthinkable, ‘I must not do this!’ Afterwards, we may judge ourselves to have failed morally.

I don’t think we should necessarily dismiss these judgments – rather, we must hold them up to the light. If we do so, and they hold up, then we should take them to indicate that we really can be required to do the impossible. But this has a troubling implication: if some situations lead to unavoidable moral wrongdoing, then we, as a society, should be careful not to put people in such situations. Giving people a choice might sound like it’s always a good thing to do, but giving a choice between two forms of moral failure is cruel.

Sometimes, it’s pure bad luck that puts someone in the position of having to choose between wrongdoings. However, much of the time, choice doesn’t take place in contexts that are shaped entirely accidentally. It takes place in social contexts. Social structures, policies, or institutions can produce outcomes that favour some groups of people over others in part by shaping what kinds of choices people get to – or have to – face. Members of some social groups might face mostly bad choices, in the sense that their choices are between alternatives, all of which are disadvantageous to them. But there’s another sense in which the choices might be bad: these might be choices between alternatives, all of which make them fail in their responsibilities to others.

The American Health Care Act, which was considered in the United States House and Senate, would have created moral dilemmas by offering people without high incomes – especially if they were also women, or old or sick – a range of bad options. It would have forced some parents to make choices between two equally unthinkable options, such as the ‘choice’ to sacrifice one child’s health care for another’s. This sort of forced choice would be similar in kind to the choice that the SS officer in Sophie’s Choice (1982) offered, when he told Sophie: ‘You may keep one of your children.’ The distinctive type of cruelty – making moral failure inevitable for someone – is the same.

No one can rightly be blamed for failing to care adequately for their family if it wasn’t possible for them to do so. But they may still take themselves to be required to do the impossible, and then judge themselves to have failed at this task. No one should be forced into this position. Not all situations that present these sorts of choices can be prevented – there’s always the possibility of bad luck – but at least we shouldn’t knowingly bring them about.

Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality by Lisa Tessman is out now through Oxford University Press.Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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Economic Inequality Is Not Immoral

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Frankfurt on economic equality

Harry Gordon Frankfurt (born May 29, 1929) is an American philosopher. He is professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University, where he taught from 1990 until 2002, and previously taught at Yale University and Rockefeller University.

‘Economic equality is not, as such, of particular moral importance. With respect to the distribution of economic assets, what is important from the point of view of morality is not that everyone should have the same but that each should have enough. If everyone had enough, it would be of no moral consequence whether some had more than others.’

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Singer and Fisher preach to their flocks in euthanasia debate

The Conversation

Benjamin T. Jones, University of Western Sydney

When the University of Sydney’s Catholic Society decided to organise a debate on legalising voluntary euthanasia, it was envisaged as a modest event to be held on campus. Interest in the topic and the high profile of the speakers soon saw the debate moved to Sydney’s Town Hall, which sold out over a week in advance.

The two protagonists symbolised forces far larger than themselves. His Grace, the Most Revered Anthony Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney, represented the power and prestige of the Roman Catholic Church. He had a strong support base in the crowd, which included nuns, priests and young Catholic students.

In contrast to his stern and authoritarian predecessor, George Pell, Fisher carried himself with a relaxed charm, happy to joke about his “strange clothes” and former life of sin – he was a lawyer before studying for the priesthood.

Peter Singer is Australia’s most prominent philosopher and the current Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. A key figure in the animal liberation movement and a foundational member of the Australian Greens, his advocacy, under certain circumstances, of abortion, euthanasia, infanticide – and even bestiality – has certainly courted controversy. To his religious critics, he is very much the atheist bogeyman.

Euthanasia is a sensitive topic that elicits strong emotions. The moderator, the ABC’s online editor of Religion and Ethics, Scott Stevens, urged the speakers and audience to be more civil and respectful than the Q&A norm. It was a request mostly adhered to.

The full Singer-Fisher debate.

Singer spoke first and his argument was relatively straightforward. The audience was asked:

Why do we consider killing an innocent person to be wrong?

The answer is twofold. First, killing someone is a violation of their autonomy. But in the case of voluntary euthanasia, a person’s autonomy is not taken away but supported.

Second, killing an innocent person deprives them of the good things in life they would have otherwise experienced. At this juncture, Singer makes an important qualification. He is not an “absolutist” about autonomy. If a healthy young person is lovesick or depressed, they may temporarily feel that life is not worth living. However, there is much reason to suspect these feelings will pass.

Singer endorses the Canadian Supreme Court’s recent ruling that allows euthanasia only for people with:

… grievous and irremediable medical conditions.

Fisher drew on the movie The Water Diviner, where a young Australian soldier agrees to kill his mortally wounded brother rather than let him slowly and painfully bleed to death. The question put to the audience was:

Is it better to kill someone than let them suffer?

Fisher asserted that comforting people through their suffering requires more from us, but it also places more value on humanity and endorses the intrinsic value of life.

Fisher’s main argument was concerned with bracket creep. If we accept some people who suffer should be able to end their lives, what about others who suffer? Rather than respect for all life, euthanasia would lead to two classes of existence. The terminally sick could soon be joined by the mentally ill, clinically depressed, severely disabled, the elderly and unwanted babies in a growing group considered better off dead.

Singer strongly rejected this claim. He argued that there was no evidence of a slippery slope towards euthanasia becoming a widespread practice to remove undesirable people for financial or other motives. He pointed to the US state of Oregon, where only 105 people took advantage of the Death with Dignity Act in 2014.

Fisher insisted that the example of the Netherlands where, he said, euthanasia has rapidly increased proves that bracket creep is real. Once you accept some people are better off dead a moral line is crossed.

The questions from the audience hinted at its makeup. Of the 12 questions asked, ten were openly hostile to Singer or supportive of Fisher. Singer was asked if he supported the killing of babies with severe disabilities or elderly people with dementia. He became increasingly impatient and regularly reminded the audience he was only advocating voluntary euthanasia – which automatically excludes babies and those unable to consent.

One questioner was even ejected by the moderator for trying to start an infanticide debate stemming from Singer’s 1979 book, Practical Ethics.

So who won the debate? No-one really. Had there been a show of hands, Fisher would have been the likely victor but that would only have reflected the Catholic Society’s strong presence.

For much of the debate, the two did not address the other’s arguments. Singer kept a small target, advocating voluntary euthanasia only for competent adults with a terminal illness.

Fisher, and the questioners, wanted a broader discussion on the sanctity of life. As one questioner demanded to much applause:

Mr Singer, who are you to decide that some lives are worth more than others?

Singer responded, also to applause, that he could not see the connection between the question and what he had advocated. It summed up the night; arguments flew in both directions but rarely met.

With the debate finished, supporters of each man formed an excited line to buy a signed book and take the obligatory selfie. As with the debates about the existence of God made so popular by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the goal was never to change anyone’s mind but to speak to an existing base. Both camps left the majestic building satisfied that they had won.

The ConversationBenjamin T. Jones is Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Humanities and Communication Arts at University of Western Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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Belle Gibson shows that most of us care about right and wrong

The Conversation

Nicholas Hookway, University of Tasmania

With her lies about having cancer and her willingness to cash in on the hopes of actual cancer patients, Belle Gibson – the Australian woman behind The Whole Pantry app – is indicative of our run-down, self-indulgent and narcissistic moral world, right?

From an insatiable desire for fame and attention to the shallowness and consumerism of the wellness and New Age movement, Gibson’s tale of deceit embodies all that is wrong with the modern world. Or so the thinking goes.

But there’s a different story to be told here: one that focuses not on Gibson’s shocking lie that she healed herself naturally of cancer but the overwhelming moral response to her mass deception and the social role this plays.

From a raging Twittersphere to talk-back radio to water cooler conversations, the backlash to Gibson’s deceit reminds us that we have a strong and lively moral culture.

The collective disgust works, effectively, to reinforce the values we hold dear.

Belle Gibson: a fallen god of self-improvement culture

You know the argument: Western culture has been overtaken by an “anything goes” relativism and as a result we have lost touch with foundational moral laws and principles. Without the moral anchors of the past – community, religion and tradition – we are left bobbing on the ocean without a moral compass.

The growth of self-help or “therapeutic” culture gets wrapped up in this narrative of decline. Belle Gibson, of course, had been elevated to a modern-day god of our wellness and self-improvement culture.

Gibson’s Whole Pantry brand provided an exemplary story of the power of the “self-improved”. The idea of beating cancer through a commitment to wellness and healthy eating strikes a major chord within a culture that accords so much importance to choice, wellness and self-improvement. As the motto of The Whole Pantry states: “Your Whole Life, Starts with You”.

For some, Belle Gibson’s lies are the fulfilment of New Age thought and the contemporary turn to self-improvement. JR Hennessy, in The Guardian, located Gibson’s fall from grace as part of the inevitable commercialisation of the New Age and its hollow culture of self-fulfilment and faked authenticity.

On this analysis, health gurus, new age dieters, meditators, anti-vaxxers and the paleo set are lumped in one big pile of narcissism and irresponsibility.

A lively moral discourse: reminding ourselves about what matters

There may be merit in the concerns being expressed about wellness culture – especially in its more extreme faux-miracle forms. But the important lesson to draw from Gibson’s exposure is the health and vitality of morality in our culture.

Despite all the hand-wringing about moral relativism and the like, the outrage Gibson has provoked shows that we are actually very quick to point out moral wrongs and to seek to restore the balance.

A quick scan of the Twitter hashtag #bellegibson reveals a wide range of moral commentary. There are people calling for punitive action and incarceration and others pointing to her “extraordinary irresponsibility”. Still others are treading a more sympathetic line, highlighting the harm of internet shaming and Gibson’s fragile mental state.

This reaction suggests we have a keen sense of what the moral rules are and when they have been transgressed. We might not precisely agree as to what those rules are – but in our daily lives we question what constitutes the good life.

Proponents of moral decline overlook this “water-cooler” morality: how moral life is established and created in the relationships, communication and moral discourse of everyday life.

Culture as moral antibodies

Culture works here as a series of moral antibodies that seek to redress violations of shared basic moral principles and values. In the Gibson case, these are truth, justice and a sense of fairness.

As 19th-century sociologist Emile Durkheim famously argued, deviance plays a healthy role in society, working to clarify social norms, to preserve the moral boundaries of the community, and to help strengthen feelings of cohesiveness.

Belle Gibson may reveal our vulnerability to be hoodwinked by food fads and wellness warriors but the response to her transgressions is a powerful reminder of the values we share in common – and what happens when you violate them.

The next question our moral culture must ask itself is how healthy is it to publicly shame a vulnerable person, and what is the right balance between culpability and sense of care and generosity to those who have done the wrong thing.

It is arguably the latter which provides the strongest test of the health of a moral society.

See also:

The ‘hole’ in the pantry story: should Penguin have validated Belle Gibson’s cancer claims?

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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We don’t need no (moral) education? Five things you should learn about ethics

The Conversation

Patrick Stokes, Deakin University

The human animal takes a remarkably long time to reach maturity. And we cram a lot of learning into that time, as well we should: the list of things we need to know by the time we hit adulthood in order to thrive – personally, economically, socially, politically – is enormous.

But what about ethical thriving? Do we need to be taught moral philosophy alongside the three Rs?

Ethics has now been introduced into New South Wales primary schools as an alternative to religious instruction, but the idea of moral philosophy as a core part of compulsory education seems unlikely to get much traction any time soon. To many ears, the phrase “moral education” has a whiff of something distastefully Victorian (the era, not the state). It suggests indoctrination into an unquestioned set of norms and principles – and in the world we find ourselves in now, there is no such set we can all agree on.

Besides, in an already crowded curriculum, do we really have time for moral philosophy? After all, most people manage to lead pretty decent lives without knowing their Sidgewick from their Scanlon or being able to spot a rule utilitarian from 50 yards.

But intractable moral problems don’t go away just because we no longer agree how to deal with them. And as recent discussions on this site help to illustrate, new problems are always arising that, one way or another, we have to deal with. As individuals and as participants in the public space, we simply can’t get out of having to think about issues of right and wrong.

Yet spend time hanging around the comments section of any news story with an ethical dimension to it (and that’s most of them), and it quickly becomes apparent that most people just aren’t familiar with the methods and frameworks of ethical reasoning that have been developed over the last two and a half thousand years. We have the tools, but we’re not equipping people with them.

So, what sort of things should we be teaching if we wanted to foster “ethical literacy”? What would count as a decent grounding in moral philosophy for the average citizen of contemporary, pluralistic societies?

What follows is in no way meant to be definitive. It’s not based on any sort of serious empirical data around people’s familiarity with ethical issues. It’s a just tentative stab (wait, can you stab tentatively?) at a list of things people should ideally know about ethics, and based, on what I see in the classroom and, online, often don’t.

1. Ethics and morality are (basically) the same thing

Many people bristle at the word “morality” but are quite comfortable using the term “ethical”, and insist there’s some crucial difference between the two. For instance, some people say ethics are about external, socially imposed norms, while morality is about individual conscience. Others say ethics is concrete and practical while morality is more abstract, or is somehow linked to religion.

Out on the value theory front lines, however, there’s no clear agreed distinction, and most philosophers use the two terms more or less interchangeably. And let’s face it: if even professional philosophers refuse to make a distinction, there probably isn’t one there to be made.

2. Morality isn’t (necessarily) subjective

Every philosophy teacher probably knows the dismay of reading a decent ethics essay, only to then be told in the final paragraph that, “Of course, morality is subjective so there is no real answer”. So what have the last three pages been about then?

There seems to be a widespread assumption that the very fact that people disagree about right and wrong means there is no real fact of the matter, just individual preferences. We use the expression “value judgment” in a way that implies such judgments are fundamentally subjective.

Sure, ethical subjectivism is a perfectly respectable position with a long pedigree. But it’s not the only game in town, and it doesn’t win by default simply because we haven’t settled all moral problems. Nor does ethics lose its grip on us even if we take ourselves to be living in a universe devoid of intrinsic moral value. We can’t simply stop caring about how we should act; even subjectivists don’t suddenly turn into monsters.

3. “You shouldn’t impose your morality on others” is itself a moral position.

You hear this all the time, but you can probably spot the fallacy here pretty quickly: that “shouldn’t” there is itself a moral “shouldn’t” (rather than a prudential or social “shouldn’t,” like “you shouldn’t tease bears” or “you shouldn’t swear at the Queen”). Telling other people it’s morally wrong to tell other people what’s morally wrong looks obviously flawed – so why do otherwise bright, thoughtful people still do it?

Possibly because what the speaker is assuming here is that “morality” is a domain of personal beliefs (“morals”) which we can set aside while continuing to discuss issues of how we should treat each other. In effect, the speaker is imposing one particular moral framework – liberalism – without realising it.

4. “Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “right”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Something’s being “natural” (if it even is) doesn’t tell us that it’s actually good. Selfishness might turn out to be natural, for instance, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to be selfish.

This gets a bit more complicated when you factor in ethical naturalism or Natural Law theory, because philosophers are awful people and really don’t want to make things easy for you.

5. The big three: Consequentialism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics

There’s several different ethical frameworks that moral philosophers use, but some familiarity with the three main ones – consequentialism (what’s right and wrong depends upon consequences); deontology (actions are right or wrong in themselves); and virtue ethics (act in accordance with the virtues characteristic of a good person) – is incredibly useful.

Why? Because they each manage to focus our attention on different, morally relevant features of a situation, features that we might otherwise miss.

So, that’s my tentative stab (still sounds wrong!). Do let me know in the comments what you’d add or take out.

This is part of a series on public morality in 21st century Australia. We’ll be publishing regular articles on morality on The Conversation in the coming weeks.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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The Case of the Falling Fat Man

by Tim Harding

Is it justified to kill an innocent threat in defence of oneself or others?

An ‘Innocent Threat’ is a person who poses an imminent threat your life, but who is not the originating cause of that threat, as in the ‘Falling Fat Man’ case hypothesised by Thomson (see below).  Some philosophers such Thomson argue that it is morally permissible to kill an Innocent Threat in self-defence (Thomson, 1991); whilst other philosophers such as Otsuka argue that it is not permissible (Otsuka, 1994).  In this essay, I intend to argue that it is justified to kill an innocent threat in defence of oneself or others, but on different grounds to those used by Thomson.  My grounds are (1) the traditional conditions for justification of self-defence; (2) the Doctrine of Double Effect (which is rejected by Thomson within this context); and (3) utilitarianism, in cases of defending more than one person.

In her 1991 paper on ‘Self-Defense’, Thomson provides three hypothetical cases in which she thinks it is morally permissible for you to kill a person in self-defence (‘Yes cases’); and three cases in which she thinks it is not permissible (‘No cases’).  These cases are:

      Yes cases        No cases
  • Villainous Aggressor
  • Innocent Aggressor
  • Innocent Threat
  • Substitution-of-a-Bystander
  • Use-of-a-Bystander
  • Riding-Roughshod-over-a-Bystander

A Villainous Aggressor intends to kill you, as in the case of a truck driver deliberately trying to run you over; whereas an Innocent Aggressor is not to blame for his aggression (for example, if he or she is insane).

An Innocent Threat does not intend to kill you, but will nevertheless do so unless you kill him or her.  For example, in Thomson’s Falling Fat Man case, you are lying in the sun on the balcony of your apartment and a fat man pushed by another person is falling towards you.  The only way you can prevent him falling on you and killing you is by moving an awning, which will deflect his fall on to the road below, where he will die.  If you do not deflect his fall in this way, your body will cushion his fall and he will live (but you will die).  The important point is that not only is the Falling Fat Man innocent, but he is not the cause of his fall towards you (Thomson, 1991:287).

fat-man-belly-crop

Thomson argues that there is no moral difference between the three ‘Yes cases’ – in each case the threat will kill you if you do not kill him or her.  She says that, other things being equal, every person Y has a right against X that X not kill Y.  In summary, she concludes that the threats in the ‘Yes cases’ will violate your rights that they not kill you, and therefore they lack rights that you not kill them (Thomson, 1991:300-305).

In contrast, bystanders are not threats – they are not causally involved in the imminent threat to your life.  Thomson concludes that bystanders do have rights not to be killed and therefore may not be killed in self-defence against a threat not caused by the bystander (Thomson 1991: 298-299).

On the other hand, in his 1994 paper Otsuka argues that there is no moral difference between an Innocent Threat and a bystander.  He thinks that it is never justified to kill innocents in self-defence.  It is morally impermissible to kill a bystander and therefore it is also impermissible to kill an Innocent Threat.[1]

The implication of Otsuka’s theory that you are morally obliged to lie back and let the Fat Man fall on you is counter-intuitive and likely to be rejected by most people.  Appeals to intuition and public opinion are, of course, not philosophical arguments, but I think they can sometimes act as a ‘reality check’ to indicate that there might be something inadequate with a moral theory like Otsuka’s; and that alternative approaches need to be considered.

For a start, Otsuka’s theory conflicts with the Hobbesian account of self-defence that if one will die unless one does X, then one has a right to do X.  However, this right needs to be limited in some way.

The traditional conditions for justification of self-defence are that (a) the threat must be imminent; (b) the defensive violence must be necessary; and (c) the force used must be proportionate to the threat.  I would argue that conditions (a) and (b) are an intrinsic component of the ‘Falling Fat Man’ case.  The proportionality condition (c) is demonstrated in DDE criterion (1) below.

The Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) states that we may do what will cause a bad outcome in order to cause a good outcome if and only if (1) the good is in appropriate proportion to the bad and (2) we do not intend the bad outcome as our means to the good outcome (Thomson, 1991:292).  For example, it is morally permissible to give a terminally ill cancer patient enough morphine to relieve excruciating pain even if we know that this dose will kill the patient.  Thomson rejects the application of the DDE to the cases under discussion on the grounds that a person’s intentions are morally irrelevant (Thomson, 1991:293-296).

My view is that intentions are relevant to the morality of killing in general and to the killing of Innocent Threats in particular.  For example, in general terms, the essential moral difference (leaving aside the legal difference) between a murder and a manslaughter charge is one of intent.  All other facts of the case may be identical.

I think that Innocent Threats meet the criteria for the application of the DDE, as follows:

(1)  the good is in appropriate proportion to the bad because either you will be killed or the Innocent Threat will be killed.  Either way, one person will die; and

(2)  your intent in defending yourself from an Innocent Threat (for example, by shielding yourself from the Falling Fat Man) is merely to save your own life.  The death of the Falling Fat Man is an unavoidable consequence of the necessary action you take to save your life, rather than the purpose of your action.

The DDE can also apply to the defence of others – the above criteria could also be met in such cases.  In cases where more than one person is being defended, the good may even outweigh the bad.

Utilitarianism is of little assistance in the Falling Fat Man case.  Both you and the fat man are likely to have a preference to live.  Either way, one person will die.  The life of one of you may be more valuable to the community than the other and therefore have better consequences from being saved, but that is an assessment you are unable to make when a fat man is about to fall on you!  However, in other cases Utilitarianism may be relevant to the defence of more than one other person, on the grounds that saving more than one life would be a better consequence than saving only one life.

In conclusion, I think it is justified to kill an Innocent Threat in defence of oneself or others on the grounds of the traditional conditions for self-defence; the Doctrine of Double Effect; and utilitarianism in cases of defending more than one person.

 References

 Otsuka, M. (1994) ‘Killing the Innocent in Self-Defense’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Winter, 1994), pp. 74-94.

Thomson, J. (1991) ‘Self-Defense’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 283-310.


[1] Otsuka also argues that it is morally impermissible to kill an Innocent Aggressor, but that issue is outside the scope of this essay topic.

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