Do Numbers Count when Saving Lives?

Eric Rakowski

in Equal Justice

Published in print July 1993 | ISBN: 9780198240792
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680274 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

Do Numbers Count when Saving Lives?

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This chapter considers the moral relevance of the number of people who could be saved by one action rather than another. It concentrates on the question whether one group's being more numerous than another gives rise to a duty or an obligation to save the lives of its members in preference to those of persons belonging to the smaller group if it is impossible to rescue everyone. The chapter begins by reviewing the salient arguments for the moral irrelevance of numbers, before turning to some of the more forceful objections to this position. It also examines several arguments for the claim that numbers matter. It then attempts to plug deficiencies in them by defending the view that rescuers ought to save as many lives as they can, without relying on the premise that it is objectively worse if more people die than if fewer perish.

Keywords: rescue; life saving; moral relevance; numbers; survival; maximizing policy

Chapter.  17546 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy

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