Is It Worse if More Die: Agent Relative or Non‐Relative Views?

F. M. Kamm

in Morality, Mortality Volume I: Death and Whom to Save From It

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780195119114
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199872244 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 Is It Worse if More Die: Agent Relative or Non‐Relative Views?

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Considers arguments for the following radical claim: the fact that we could save a greater number of lives is not a reason to save some people rather than others when we cannot save everyone. Against this view, an argument is presented that claims to prove that it is worse if more die than if fewer do, but then a counterargument is given that considerations of justice and fairness might stand in the way of preventing this worse state of affairs, requiring us to give to a group with the greater number of people and to a group with the smaller number equal chances to be saved. This means there would be a conflict between considerations of the right (e.g. justice, fairness), and considerations of the good (e.g. maximizing lives saved). The arguments offered are based around the claims of John Taurek on conflict situations in which some can be helped and some cannot: his brand of consequentialism, which involves an evaluation of outcomes relative to an individual's interests combined with an agent‐neutral theory of permission to act. The aspects addressed all centre around the aggregation argument — aggregation vs non‐aggregation.

Keywords: agent‐neutral theory of permission to act; aggregation; aggregation argument; conflict situations; consequentialism; fairness; good; individual's interests; justice; maximizing lives saved; non‐aggregation; number of lives saved; right; saving all lives; saving lives; saving some lives; John Taurek

Chapter.  14483 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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