Chapter

Between Some Harder Rocks and Rockier Hard Places: On Distortional Separating and Revelatory Grouping

Peter Unger

in Living High and Letting Die

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780195108590
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199868261 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195108590.003.0005
Between Some Harder Rocks and Rockier Hard Places: On Distortional Separating and Revelatory Grouping

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This chapter considers, first, two strange psychological phenomena, and second, the distortional impact of projective separating. According to the psychological Phenomenon of No Threshold, if an action is deemed wrong by our moral intuitions, it remains wrong no matter how many people's suffering that action would alleviate. According to the Phenomenon of Near Tie‐Breaker, by contrast, to ensure a small gain in one area, it is acceptable to cause serious suffering in another area, provided that the suffering is balanced by the prevention of an equivalent amount of suffering in the first area. These conflicting phenomena, far from reflecting our basic moral principles, indicate the distortional power of projective separating (the view that we can distinguish between the persons linked to a given situation or problem and those outside that situation). Since the intuitions flowing from these conflicting phenomena cannot reflect our basic moral values, we may adopt a Liberationist view of the cases in which each of these phenomena arise.

Keywords: Liberationism; moral principle; projective separating; psychological phenomena; suffering; wrong

Chapter.  6000 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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