Jim and the Indians in the Jungle Clearing

Hugo Adam Bedau

in Making Mortal Choices

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780195108774
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199852888 | DOI:
Jim and the Indians in the Jungle Clearing

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This chapter discusses a fictional case meant to show problems with utilitarianism: Jim comes upon a group of Indians held at gunpoint by soldiers, who plan to kill them to set an example. Jim is given a choice: kill one Indian and the others will live, or refuse, and all will be killed. The author notes that the utilitarian response to such a situation is not obvious; he concludes that the utilitarian could not easily provide Jim with useful advice. Pointing out that if Jim shoots a hostage he is not only killing him, but also committing murder, he notes that here, unlike the cases in the first two chapters, no one need die if certain people act the right way. After discussing principles like maximizing net benefits, rule utilitarianism, choosing the lesser evil, and the doctrine of double effect, he ultimately accepts that he has no solution.

Keywords: utilitarianism; net benefits; rule utilitarianism; lesser evil; double effect

Chapter.  8430 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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