Living High, Stealing and Letting Die: The Main Truth of Some Related Puzzles

Peter Unger

in Living High and Letting Die

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780195108590
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199868261 | DOI:
Living High, Stealing and Letting Die: The Main Truth of Some Related Puzzles

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A specific distortional tendency promotes our misleading responses to many moral cases; one example is the lenient response often given to cases of distant suffering. Various factors are relevant to this distortion including futility thinking, the conspicuousness of suffering, the difference between proper property and money, and the Doctrine of Double effect, according to which harm to others either as an end or as a means is more blameworthy than harm as a mere foreseen consequence. Upon consideration, we find that none of these factors adds support to the Preservationist approach. When conduct typically regarded as objectionable – lying, promise‐breaking, cheating, stealing – are needed to lessen the serious suffering of fairly innocent people, it is morally good, though not morally required, to engage in such conduct.

Keywords: consequence; doctrine of double effect; futility; harm; promise; property; suffering

Chapter.  9316 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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