The Speluncean Explorers and the Death of Roger Whetmore

Hugo Adam Bedau

in Making Mortal Choices

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780195108774
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199852888 | DOI:
The Speluncean Explorers and the Death of Roger Whetmore

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This chapter discusses the fictional case of explorers stuck in a cave after a landslide with no way out and little food. One group member, Roger Whetmore, suggests casting lots and killing and eating the loser, and the group agrees to proceed with the plan, even when Whetmore decides to withdraw. Whetmore loses the dice throw, and is killed and eaten. The lower court finds the spelunkers guilty of murder, and the Supreme Court must rule on this verdict. The author focuses on the moral issues the killing raises, the reasoning for the outcome of the case, and other possible outcomes, and discusses principles such as self-defense, self-preservation, and the rights principle. He concludes that survival should not be paramount, and that choosing to die, rather than killing to survive, would mean living and dying with greater dignity.

Keywords: Roger Whetmore; self-defense; self-preservation; rights principle

Chapter.  8644 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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