Chapter

The Sacrifices of the Innocent

David Cummiskey

in Kantian Consequentialism

Published in print April 1996 | ISBN: 9780195094534
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833146 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195094530.003.0008
The Sacrifices of the Innocent

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It is a basic structural feature of consequentialism that (at least in principle) it may sometimes require the sacrifice of the innocent. Chs. 5 and 6 argued that respect for persons involves both positive and negative duties. The problem at issue is thus the competing demands of the conflicting duties, or grounds of obligation, that confront us when the only way to save some involves sacrificing others. In these types of tragic cases, a commitment to the equal unconditional value of all persons should lead moral agents to recognize the legitimacy of their own sacrifice to save others. If a sacrifice is rationally defensible to the sacrificed, then it also respects human dignity and treats rational nature as an end‐in‐itself. This chapter also discusses the limits of beneficence, self‐sacrifice, and the nature of justified coercion.

Keywords: beneficence; coercion; conflicting duties; consequentialism; end‐in‐itself; human dignity; innocent; negative duties; positive duties; respect for persons; sacrifice; self‐sacrifice

Chapter.  6812 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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