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CEPPA Talk (In person) – Joel Joseph (St Andrews)

October 12, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Title: Eliminative Harming without Intentions

Location: Edgecliffe G03

Abstract: Consider the following pair of cases 

Roughshod. You are driving to the hospital for an emergency life-saving operation. If you do not make it in time, you will die. However, Victim is lying in the only road that will get you there in time. Although Victim is not physically obstructing your path, they are too heavy for you to move aside. You can therefore save yourself only by driving over Victim en route to the hospital, thereby killing her. 

Obstruction. The case is similar to Roughshod. However, this time you cannot simply drive over Victim on your way to the hospital. This is because her presence in the road is physically obstructing your path. You can therefore save yourself only by getting out of your car and detonating a bomb next to Victim that will blow her to smithereens, thereby clearing the road ahead. 

It seems impermissible to kill Victim in either case. However, many find it intuitively plausible that killing Victim in Obstruction is harder to justify killing than it is in Roughshod. The Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) is the only discussed explanation of the moral difference between these two cases. However, many non-consequentialists find DDE implausible. 

In this paper, I argue that we can distinguish morally between Roughshod and Obstruction without appealing to DDE. I first argue that DDE does not get to the heart of the intuitive moral difference between Roughshod and Obstruction. I then offer an alternative explanation of the moral difference between Roughshod and Obstruction that is extensionally superior to DDE. Finally, I argue that endorsing my account over DDE is not only theoretically significant, but that it also has implications for the morality of abortion that differ importantly from DDE. 


October 12, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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