Internal WiP: Assoc. Professor Kerah Gordon-Solmon

Between All and Nothing: Or, Defending the Impermissible

Abstract: Suppose that two victims are about to be crushed by a collapsing building. Agent has three options:

Save One, allowing her arms to be crushed 
Save Both, allowing her arms to be crushed
Save None, keeping her arms.

Call this case All or Nothing, in honour of its paper of origin (by Joe Horton).

Agent is not obligated to perform a rescue, in the circumstances.  She has a prerogative not to sacrifice her arms to save two or fewer lives.  But if she does make the sacrifice — if she rushes into the collapsing building — she has a duty to rescue both victims.  Keeping her arms is her only prerogative-protected interest at stake; it is the only interest of hers that counts against the moral reasons to Save Both.  Having undertaken that sacrifice, she must Save Both.

The paper defends the following claims. (1) It is impermissible for Agent to Save One, for the reason that Saving One wrongs the second victim.  (2) It is permissible for Agent to Save None.  (3) The balance of moral reasons nonetheless favours Saving One over Saving None.  (4) More generally, from the moral point of view, impermissible conduct is not always inferior to permissible conduct.

This internal talk is for Oxford Uehiro Centre members and associates.

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