Between Some Rocks and Some Hard Places: On Causing and Preventing Serious Loss

Peter Unger

in Living High and Letting Die

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780195108590
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199868261 | DOI:
Between Some Rocks and Some Hard Places: On Causing and Preventing Serious Loss

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The distortional psychological tendencies that promote misleading responses to moral cases not linked to lessening distant suffering are difficult to identify given the complexities in accounting for our responses to cases of ethically serious causal conflict. This difficulty lessens when we consider several‐option moral problems with at least two ‘active’ options rather than classic two‐option cases like the trolley problem, which distinguish between initiating and allowing. The features of several‐option cases liberate us from the influence of constraining factors that inhibit us from responding positively to loss‐lessening behavior. Whereas these highly subjective constraining factors, like protophysical thinking and projective separating, generate distorted moral responses, their positive counterparts, like projective grouping, show that since each person whom an agent's conduct might affect has an equal claim on his or her conduct, by his or her conduct there must occur the least serious suffering possible.

Keywords: conflict; doctrine of initiating and allowing; suffering; trolley problem

Chapter.  14571 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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