PHL 204-07

War and massacre cases

How would Nagel/Mill address them? Which better, and why?

Case #1
Utilitarian: accepts certain rules of thumb

  • Do not torture innocent people
  • prevent catastrophic destruction & Death whenever possible
  • then, you think about producing the greatest happiness — the greatest happiness is produced by torturing
  • are they any other options? suppose NO.
  • will the torture be effective, and how can we know?
  • torture produces unreliable info
  • if it becomes known that we are torturing, it becomes more likely that we will be tortured.

  • let’s suppose that we somehow know that it will be effective and it will not be known that we did it
  • IF we make all these suppositions, then the utilitarian would say to torture

Nagel: advocates absolutism
|-absolute pacifism ————Nagel—————-utilitarianism-|

AP: always unacceptable to intentionally harm another
UT: any kind of action can be, in the right circumstances, morally permitted, if not required
NG: certain types of actions are wrong no matter what the consequences

two absolutist restrictions for warfare

  • restriction upon the legitimate targets of harm
  • restrictions on the means of harm to legitimate targets
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