Justice 01 The Moral Side of Murder / The Case for Cannibalism

by Watchalife

This is a course about justice and we begin with a story.

Suppose you’re the driver of a trolley car, and your trolley car is hurtling down the track at 60 miles an hour.

And at the end of the track you notice five workers working on the track.

You try to stop but you can’t, your brakes don’t work.

You feel desperate because you know that if you crash into these five workers, they will all die.

Let’s assume you know that for sure.

And so you feel helpless until you notice that there is, off to the right, a side track and at the end of that track, there is one worker working on the track.

Your steering wheel works, so you can turn the trolley car, if you want to, onto the side track killing the one but sparing the five.

Here’s our first question: what’s the right thing to do?

What would you do? Let’s take a poll.

How many would turn the trolley car onto the side track? Raise your hands.

How many wouldn’t? How many would go straight ahead?

Keep your hands up those of you who would go straight ahead.

A handful of people would, the vast majority would turn.

Let’s hear first, now we need to begin to investigate the reasons why you think it’s the right thing to do.

Let’s begin with those in the majority who would turn to go onto the side track. Why would you do it?

What would be your reason? Who’s willing to volunteer a reason?

Go ahead. Stand up.

Because it can’t be right to kill five people when you can only kill one person instead.

It wouldn’t be right to kill five if you could kill one person instead.

That’s a good reason.

That’s a good reason. Who else?

Does everybody agree with that reason? Go ahead.

Well I was thinking it’s the same reason on 9/11 with regard to the people who flew the plane into the Pennsylvania field as heroes because they chose to kill the people on the plane and not kill more people in big buildings.

So the principle there was the same on 9/11.

It’s a tragic circumstance but better to kill one so that five can live, is that the reason most of you had, those of you who would turn? Yes?

Let’s hear now from those in the minority, those who wouldn’t turn. Yes.

Well, I think that’s the same type of mentality that justifies genocide and totalitarianism.

In order to save one type of race, you wipe out the other.

So what would you do in this case?

You would, to avoid the horrors of genocide, you would crash into the five and kill them?

Presumably, yes.

You would? -Yeah.

Okay. Who else? That’s a brave answer.

Thank you.

Let’s consider another trolley car case and see whether those of you in the majority want to adhere to the principle “better that one should die so that five should live.”

This time you’re not the driver of the trolley car, you’re an onlooker. You’re standing on a bridge overlooking a trolley car track.

And down the track comes a trolley car, at the end of the track are five workers, the brakes don’t work, the trolley car is about to careen into the five and kill them.

And now, you’re not the driver, you really feel helpless until you notice standing next to you, leaning over the bridge is a very fat man.

And you could give him a shove.

He would fall over the bridge onto the track right in the way of the trolley car. He would die but he would spare the five.

Now, how many would push the fat man over the bridge?

Raise your hand. How many wouldn’t?

Most people wouldn’t. Here’s the obvious question.

What became of the principle “better to save five lives even if it means sacrificing one?”

What became of the principle that almost everyone endorsed in the first case?

I need to hear from someone who was in the majority in both cases.

How do you explain the difference between the two? Yes.

The second one, I guess, involves an active choice of pushing a person down which I guess that person himself would otherwise not have been involved in the situation at all.

And so to choose on his behalf, I guess, to involve him in something that he otherwise would have escaped is, I guess, more than what you have in the first case where the three parties, the driver and the two sets of workers, are already, I guess, in the situation.

But the guy working, the one on the track off to the side, he didn’t choose to sacrifice his life any more than the fat man did, did he?

That’s true, but he was on the tracks and…

This guy was on the bridge.

Go ahead, you can come back if you want. All right.

It’s a hard question. You did well. You did very well.

It’s a hard question.

Who else can find a way of reconciling the reaction of the majority in these two cases? Yes.

Well, I guess in the first case where you have the one worker and the five, it’s a choice between those two and you have to make a certain choice and people are going to die because of the trolley car, not necessarily because of your direct actions.

The trolley car is a runaway thing and you’re making a split second choice.

Whereas pushing the fat man over is an actual act of murder on your part.

You have control over that whereas you may not have control over the trolley car.

So I think it’s a slightly different situation.

All right, who has a reply?

That’s good. Who has a way?

Who wants to reply?

Is that a way out of this?

I don’t think that’s a very good reason because you choose toeither way you have to choose who dies because you either choose to turn and kill the person, which is an act of conscious thought to turn, or you choose to push the fat man over which is also an active, conscious action.

So either way, you’re making a choice.

Do you want to reply?

I’m not really sure that that’s the case.

It just still seems kind of different.

The act of actually pushing someone over onto the tracks and killing him, you are actually killing him yourself.

You’re pushing him with your own hands.

You’re pushing him and that’s different than steering something that is going to cause death into another.

You know, it doesn’t really sound right saying it now.

No, no. It’s good. It’s good.

What’s your name?



Let me ask you this question, Andrew.


Suppose standing on the bridge next to the fat man, I didn’t have to push him, suppose he was standing over a trap door that I could open by turning a steering wheel like that.

Would you turn?

For some reason, that still just seems more wrong.


I mean, maybe if you accidentally like leaned into the steering wheel or something like that.

But… Or say that the car is hurtling towards a switch that will drop the trap.

Then I could agree with that.

That’s all right. Fair enough.

It still seems wrong in a way that it doesn’t seem wrong in the first case to turn, you say.

And in another way, I mean, in the first situation you’re involved directly with the situation.

In the second one, you’re an onlooker as well.

All right. -So you have the choice of becoming involved or not by pushing the fat man.

All right. Let’s forget for the moment about this case.

That’s good.

Let’s imagine a different case.

This time you’re a doctor in an emergency room and six patients come to you.

They’ve been in a terrible trolley car wreck.

Five of them sustain moderate injuries, one is severely injured, you could spend all day caring for the one severely injured victim but in that time, the five would die.

Or you could look after the five, restore them to health but during that time, the one severely injured person would die.

How many would save the five?

Now as the doctor, how many would save the one?

Very few people, just a handful of people.

Same reason, I assume.

One life versus five?

Now consider another doctor case.

This time, you’re a transplant surgeon and you have five patients, each in desperate need of an organ transplant in order to survive.

One needs a heart, one a lung, one a kidney, one a liver, and the fifth a pancreas.

And you have no organ donors.

You are about to see them die.

And then it occurs to you that in the next room there’s a healthy guy who came in for a check-up.

And he’s — you like that — and he’s taking a nap, you could go in very quietly, yank out the five organs, that person would die, but you could save the five.

How many would do it?

Anyone? How many?

Put your hands up if you would do it.

Anyone in the balcony?

I would.

You would? Be careful, don’t lean over too much.

How many wouldn’t?

All right. What do you say?

Speak up in the balcony, you who would yank out the organs. Why?

I’d actually like to explore a slightly alternate possibility of just taking the one of the five who needs an organ who dies first and using their four healthy organs to save the other four.

That’s a pretty good idea.

That’s a great idea except for the fact that you just wrecked the philosophical point.

Let’s step back from these stories and these arguments to notice a couple of things about the way the arguments have begun to unfold.

Certain moral principles have already begun to emerge from the discussions we’ve had.

And let’s consider what those moral principles look like.

The first moral principle that emerged in the discussion said the right thing to do, the moral thing to do depends on the consequences that will result from your action.

At the end of the day, better that five should live even if one must die.

That’s an example of consequentialist moral reasoning.

Consequentialist moral reasoning locates morality in the consequences of an act, in the state of the world that will result from the thing you do.

But then we went a little further, we considered those other cases and people weren’t so sure about consequentialist moral reasoning.

When people hesitated to push the fat man over the bridge or to yank out the organs of the innocent patient, people gestured toward reasons having to do with the intrinsic quality of the act itself, consequences be what they may.

People were reluctant.

People thought it was just wrong, categorically wrong, to kill a person, an innocent person, even for the sake of saving five lives.

At least people thought that in the second version of each story we considered.

So this points to a second categorical way of thinking about moral reasoning.

Categorical moral reasoning locates morality in certain absolute moral requirements, certain categorical duties and rights, regardless of the consequences.

We’re going to explore in the days and weeks to come the contrast between consequentialist and categorical moral principles.

The most influential example of consequential moral reasoning is utilitarianism, a doctrine invented by Jeremy Bentham, English political philosopher.

The most important philosopher of categorical moral reasoning German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

So we will look at those two different modes of moral reasoning, assess them, and also consider others.

If you look at the syllabus, you’ll notice that we read a number of great and famous books, books by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stewart Mill, and others.

You’ll notice too from the syllabus that we don’t only read these books; we also take up contemporary, political, and legal controversies that raise philosophical questions.

We will debate equality and inequality, affirmative action, free speech versus hate speech, same sex marriage, military conscription, a range of practical questions. Why?

Not just to enliven these abstract and distant books but to make clear, to bring out what’s at stake in our everyday lives, including our political lives, for philosophy.

And so we will read these books and we will debate these issues, and we’ll see how each informs and illuminates the other.

This may sound appealing enough, but here I have to issue a warning.

And the warning is this, to read these books in this way as an exercise in self knowledge, to read them in this way carries certain risks, risks that are both personal and political, risks that every student of political philosophy has known.

These risks spring from the fact that philosophy teaches us and unsettles us by confronting us with what we already know.

There’s an irony.

The difficulty of this course consists in the fact that it teaches what you already know.

It works by taking what we know from familiar unquestioned settings and making it strange.

That’s how those examples worked, the hypotheticals with which we began, with their mix of playfulness and sobriety.

It’s also how these philosophical books work.

Philosophy estranges us from the familiar, not by supplying new information but by inviting and provoking a new way of seeing but, and here’s the risk, once the familiar turns strange, it’s never quite the same again.

Self knowledge is like lost innocence, however unsettling you find it; it can never be un-thought or un-known.

What makes this enterprise difficult but also riveting is that moral and political philosophy is a story and you don’t know where the story will lead.

But what you do know is that the story is about you.

Those are the personal risks.

Now what of the political risks?

One way of introducing a course like this would be to promise you that by reading these books and debating these issues, you will become a better, more responsible citizen; you will examine the presuppositions of public policy, you will hone your political judgment, you will become a more effective participant in public affairs.

But this would be a partial and misleading promise.

Political philosophy, for the most part, hasn’t worked that way.

You have to allow for the possibility that political philosophy may make you a worse citizen rather than a better one or at least a worse citizen before it makes you a better one, and that’s because philosophy is a distancing, even debilitating, activity. And you see this, going back to Socrates, there’s a dialogue, the Gorgias, in which one of Socrates’ friends, Callicles, tries to talk him out of philosophizing.

Callicles tells Socrates “Philosophy is a pretty toy if one indulges in it with moderation at the right time of life. But if one pursues it further than one should, it is absolute ruin.”

“Take my advice,” Callicles says, “abandon argument. Learn the accomplishments of active life, take for your models not those people who spend their time on these petty quibbles but those who have a good livelihood and reputation and many other blessings.”

So Callicles is really saying to Socrates “Quit philosophizing, get real, go to business school.” And Callicles did have a point.

He had a point because philosophy distances us from conventions, from established assumptions, and from settled beliefs.

Those are the risks, personal and political.

And in the face of these risks, there is a characteristic evasion.

The name of the evasion is skepticism, it’s the idea — well, it goes something like this — we didn’t resolve once and for all either the cases or the principles we were arguing when we began and if Aristotle and Locke and Kant and Mill haven’t solved these questions after all of these years, who are we to think that we, here in Sanders Theatre, over the course of a semester, can resolve them?

And so, maybe it’s just a matter of each person having his or her own principles and there’s nothing more to be said about it, no way of reasoning.

That’s the evasion, the evasion of skepticism, to which I would offer the following reply.

It’s true, these questions have been debated for a very long time but the very fact that they have recurred and persisted may suggest that though they’re impossible in one sense, they’re unavoidable in another.

And the reason they’re unavoidable, the reason they’re inescapable is that we live some answer to these questions every day.

So skepticism, just throwing up your hands and giving up on moral reflection is no solution.

Immanuel Kant described very well the problem with skepticism when he wrote “Skepticism is a resting place for human reason, where it can reflect upon its dogmatic wanderings, but it is no dwelling place for permanent settlement.”

“Simply to acquiesce in skepticism,” Kant wrote, “can never suffice to overcome the restlessness of reason.”

I’ve tried to suggest through these stories and these arguments some sense of the risks and temptations, of the perils and the possibilities.

I would simply conclude by saying that the aim of this course is to awaken the restlessness of reason and to see where it might lead.

Thank you very much.

Like, in a situation that desperate, you have to do what you have to do to survive.

-You have to do what you have to do?

You got to do what you got to do, pretty much.

without any food, you know, someone just has to take the sacrifice.

Someone has to make the sacrifice and people can survive.

Alright, that’s good.

What’s your name?


-Marcus, what do you say to Marcus?

Last time, we started out last time with some stories, with some moral dilemmas about trolley cars and about doctors and healthy patients vulnerable to being victims of organ transplantation.

We noticed two things about the arguments we had, one had to do with the way we were arguing.

We began with our judgments in particular cases.

We tried to articulate the reasons or the principles lying behind our judgments.

And then confronted with a new case, we found ourselves reexamining those principles, revising each in the light of the other.

And we noticed the built in pressure to try to bring into alignment our judgments about particular cases and the principles we would endorse on reflection.

We also noticed something about the substance of the arguments that emerged from the discussion.

We noticed that sometimes we were tempted to locate the morality of an act in the consequences, in the results, in the state of the world that it brought about.

And we called this consequentialist moral reasoning.

But we also noticed that in some cases, we weren’t swayed only by the result.

Sometimes, many of us felt, that not just consequences but also the intrinsic quality or character of the act matters morally.

Some people argued that there are certain things that are just categorically wrong even if they bring about a good result, even if they saved five people at the cost of one life.

So we contrasted consequentialist moral principles with categorical ones.

Today and in the next few days, we will begin to examine one of the most influential versions of consequentialist moral theory.

And that’s the philosophy of utilitarianism.

Jeremy Bentham, English political philosopher gave first the first clear systematic expression to the utilitarian moral theory.

And Bentham’s idea, his essential idea, is a very simple one.

With a lot of morally intuitive appeal, Bentham’s idea is the following, the right thing to do; the just thing to do is to maximize utility.

What did he mean by utility?

He meant by utility the balance of pleasure over pain, happiness over suffering.

Here’s how he arrived at the principle of maximizing utility.

He started out by observing that all of us, all human beings are governed by two sovereign masters: pain and pleasure.

We human beings like pleasure and dislike pain.

And so we should base morality, whether we’re thinking about what to do in our own lives or whether as legislators or citizens, we’re thinking about what the laws should be.

The right thing to do individually or collectively is to maximize, act in a way that maximizes the overall level of happiness.

Bentham’s utilitarianism is sometimes summed up with the slogan “The greatest good for the greatest number.” With this basic principle of utility on hand, let’s begin to test it and to examine it by turning to another case, another story, but this time, not a hypothetical story, a real life story, the case of the Queen versus Dudley and Stevens.

British law case that’s famous and much debated in law schools.

Here’s what happened in the case.

I’ll summarize the story then I want to hear how you would rule, imagining that you were the jury.

A newspaper account of the time described the background.

A sadder story of disaster at sea was never told than that of the survivors of the yacht, Mignonette.

The ship floundered in the South Atlantic, There were four in the crew, Dudley was the captain, Stevens was the first mate, Brooks was a sailor, all men of excellent character or so the newspaper account tells us.

The fourth crew member was the cabin boy, Richard Parker, He was an orphan, he had no family, and he was on his first long voyage at sea.

He went, the news account tells us, rather against the advice of his friends.

He went in the hopefulness of youthful ambition, thinking the journey would make a man of him.

Sadly, it was not to be.

The facts of the case were not in dispute.

A wave hit the ship and the Mignonette went down.

The four crew members escaped to a lifeboat.

The only food they had were two cans of preserved turnips, no fresh water.

For the first three days, they ate nothing.

On the fourth day, they opened one of the cans of turnips and ate it.

The next day they caught a turtle.

Together with the other can of turnips, the turtle enabled them to subsist for the next few days.

And then for eight days, they had nothing.

No food. No water.

Imagine yourself in a situation like that, what would you do?

Here’s what they did.

By now the cabin boy, Parker, is lying at the bottom of the lifeboat in the corner because he had drunk seawater against the advice of the others and he had become ill and he appeared to be dying.

Dudley, the captain, suggested that they should all have a lottery, that they should draw lots to see who would die to save the rest.

Brooks refused.

He didn’t like the lottery idea.

We don’t know whether this was because he didn’t want to take the chance or because he believed in categorical moral principles.

But in any case, no lots were drawn.

The next day there was still no ship in sight so Dudley told Brooks to avert his gaze and he motioned to Stevens that the boy, Parker, had better be killed.

Dudley offered a prayer, he told the boy his time had come, and he killed him with a pen knife, stabbing him in the jugular vein.

Brooks emerged from his conscientious objection to share in the gruesome bounty.

For four days, the three of them fed on the body and blood of the cabin boy.

True story.

And then they were rescued.

Dudley describes their rescue in his diary with staggering euphemism.

as we were having our breakfast, a ship appeared at last.

The three survivors were picked up by a German ship.

They were taken back to Falmouth in England where they were arrested and tried.

Brooks turned state’s witness.

Dudley and Stevens went to trial.

They didn’t dispute the facts.

They claimed they had acted out of necessity; that was their defense.

They argued in effect better that one should die so that three could survive.

The prosecutor wasn’t swayed by that argument.

He said murder is murder, and so the case went to trial.

Now imagine you are the jury.

And just to simplify the discussion, put aside the question of law, let’s assume that you as the jury are charged with deciding whether what they did was morally permissible or not.

How many would vote ‘not guilty’, that what they did was morally permissible?

And how many would vote ‘guilty’, what they did was morally wrong?

A pretty sizeable majority.

Now let’s see what people’s reasons are and let me begin with those who are in the minority.

Let’s hear first from the defense of Dudley and Stevens.

Why would you morally exonerate them?

What are your reasons?


I think it is morally reprehensible but I think that there is a distinction between what’s morally reprehensible and what makes someone legally accountable.

In other words, as the judge said, what’s always moral isn’t necessarily against the law and while I don’t think that necessity justifies theft or murder or any illegal act, at some point your degree of necessity does, in fact, exonerate you from any guilt.

Okay. Good. Other defenders.

Other voices for the defense.

Moral justifications for what they did. Yes.

Thank you.

I just feel like in the situation that desperate, you have to do what you have to do to survive.

You have to do what you have to do.

Yeah, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

Pretty much.

If you’ve been going someone just has to take the sacrifice, someone has to make the sacrifice and people can survive.

And furthermore from that, let’s say they survive and then they become productive members of society who go home and start like a million charity organizations and this and that I mean they benefited everybody in the end. -Yeah.

So, I mean I don’t know what they did afterwards, they might have gone and like, I don’t know, killed more people, I don’t know.

Whatever but. -What?

Maybe they were assassins.

What if they went home and they turned out to be assassins?

What if they’d gone home and turned out to be assassins? Well!

You’d want to know who they assassinated.

That’s true too. That’s fair.

That’s fair. I would want to know who they assassinated.

All right. That’s good.

What’s your name?


Marcus. All right.

We’ve heard a defense, a couple of voices for the defense.

Now we need to hear from the prosecution.

Most people think what they did was wrong. Why?

Yes. -One of the first things that I was thinking was they haven’t been eating for a really long time maybe they’re mentally like affected and so then that could be used as a defense, a possible argument that they weren’t in the proper state of mind, they weren’t making decisions they might otherwise be making.

And if that’s an appealing argument that you have to be in an altered mindset to do something like that, it suggests that people who find that argument convincing do think that they were acting immorally.

But what do you- I want to know what you think. You defend them.

I’m sorry, you vote to convict, right?

Yeah, I don’t think that they acted in a morally appropriate way.

And why not?

What do you say, here’s Marcus, he just defended them.

He said — you heard what he said.


That you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do in a case like that. -Yeah.

-What do you say to Marcus?

That there’s no situation that would allow human beings to take the idea of fate or the other people’s lives in their own hands, that we don’t have that kind of power.

Good. Okay.

Thank you.

And what’s your name?


Britt. Okay. Who else?

What do you say? Stand up.

I’m wondering if Dudley and Steven had asked for Richard Parker’s consent in you know, dying, if that would exonerate them from an act of murder and if so, is that still morally justifiable?

That’s interesting.

All right. Consent.

Wait wait, hang on.

What’s your name?


Kathleen says suppose they had that, what would that scenario look like?

So in the story Dudley is there, pen knife in hand, but instead of the prayer or before the prayer, he says “Parker, would you mind?”

“We’re desperately hungry”, as Marcus empathizes with, “we’re desperately hungry.

You’re not going to last long anyhow.”

-Yeah. You can be a martyr.

“Would you be a martyr?

How about it Parker?”

Then what do you think?

Would it be morally justified then?

Suppose Parker in his semi-stupor says “Okay.”

I don’t think it would be morally justifiable but I’m wondering if — Even then, even then it wouldn’t be?


You don’t think that even with consent it would be morally justified?

Are there people who think who want to take up Kathleen’s consent idea and who think that that would make it morally justified?

Raise your hand if it would, if you think it would.

That’s very interesting.

Why would consent make a moral difference?

Why would it? Yes.

Well, I just think that if he was making his own original idea and it was his idea to start with, then that would be the only situation in which I would see it being appropriate in any way because that way you couldn’t make the argument that he was pressured, you know it’s three-to-one or whatever the ratio was.

Right. -And I think that if he was making a decision to give his life and he took on the agency to sacrifice himself which some people might see as admirable and other people might disagree with that decision.

So if he came up with the idea, that’s the only kind of consent we could have confidence in morally then it would be okay.

Otherwise, it would be kind of coerced consent under the circumstances, you think.

Is there anyone who thinks that even the consent of Parker would not justify their killing him?

Who thinks that? Yes.

Tell us why. Stand up.

I think that Parker would be killed with the hope that the other crew members would be rescued so there’s no definite reason that he should be killed because you don’t know when they’re going to get rescued so if you kill him, it’s killing him in vain, do you keep killing a crew member until you’re rescued and then you’re left with no one because someone’s going to die eventually?

Well, the moral logic of the situation seems to be that, that they would keep on picking off the weakest maybe, one by one, until they were rescued.

And in this case, luckily, they were rescued when three at least were still alive.

Now, if Parker did give his consent, would it be all right, do you think or not?

No, it still wouldn’t be right.

-And tell us why it wouldn’t be all right.

First of all, cannibalism, I believe, is morally incorrect so you shouldn’t be eating human anyway.

So cannibalism is morally objectionable as such so then, even on the scenario of waiting until someone died, still it would be objectionable.

Yes, to me personally, I feel like it all depends on one’s personal morals and like we can’t sit here and just, like this is just my opinion, of course other people are going to disagree, but — Well we’ll see, let’s see what their disagreements are and then we’ll see if they have reasons that can persuade you or not.

Let’s try that. All right.

Now, is there someone who can explain, those of you who are tempted by consent, can you explain why consent makes such a moral difference?

What about the lottery idea?

Does that count as consent?

Remember at the beginning,

Dudley proposed a lottery,

suppose that they had agreed to a lottery, then how many would then say it was all right?

Suppose there were a lottery, cabin boy lost, and the rest of the story unfolded, then how many people would say it was morally permissible?

So the numbers are rising if we had a lottery.

Let’s hear from one of you for whom the lottery would make a moral difference.

Why would it?

I think the essential element, in my mind, that makes it a crime is the idea that they decided at some point that their lives were more important than his, and that, I mean, that’s kind of the basis for really any crime.

Right? It’s like my needs, my desires are more important than yours and mine take precedent.

And if they had done a lottery where everyone consented that someone should die and it’s sort of like they’re all sacrificing themselves to save the rest.

Then it would be all right?

A little grotesque but –.

-But morally permissible?


-And what’s your name?


-So Matt, for you,

what bothers you is not the cannibalism but the lack of due process.

I guess you could say that.

Right? And can someone who agrees with Matt say a little bit more about why a lottery would make it, in your view, morally permissible.

Go ahead.

The way I understood it originally was that that was the whole issue is that the cabin boy was never consulted about whether or not something was going to happen to him, even with the original lottery whether or not he would be a part of that, it was just decided that he was the one that was going to die.

Right, that’s what happened in the actual case.


But if there were a lottery and they’d all agreed to the procedure, you think that would be okay?

Right, because then everyone knows that there’s going to be a death, whereas the cabin boy didn’t know that this discussion was even happening, there was no forewarning for him to know that “Hey, I may be the one that’s dying.”

All right.

Now, suppose everyone agrees to the lottery, they have the lottery, the cabin boy loses, and he changes his mind.

You’ve already decided, it’s like a verbal contract.

You can’t go back on that, you’ve decided, the decision was made.

If you know that you’re dying for the reason of others to live.

If someone else had died, you know that you would consume them so — Right. But then you could say, “I know, but I lost”.

I just think that that’s the whole moral issue is that there was no consulting of the cabin boy and that’s what makes it the most horrible is that he had no idea what was even going on.

That had he known what was going on, it would be a bit more understandable.

All right. Good. Now I want to hear — so there are some who think it’s morally permissible led by Marcus.

Then there are some who say the real problem here is the lack of consent, whether the lack of consent to a lottery, to a fair procedure or, Kathleen’s idea, lack of consent at the moment of death.

And if we add consent, then more people are willing to consider the sacrifice morally justified.

I want to hear now, finally, from those of you who think even with consent, even with a lottery, even with a final murmur of consent by Parker, at the very last moment, it would still be wrong.

And why would it be wrong?

That’s what I want to hear. Yes.

Well, the whole time I’ve been leaning off towards the categorical moral reasoning and I think that there’s a possibility I’d be okay with the idea of a lottery and then the loser taking into their own hands to kill themselves so there wouldn’t be an act of murder, but I still think that even that way, it’s coerced.

Also, I don’t think that there is any remorse, like in Dudley’s diary, “We’re eating our breakfast,’ it seems as though he’s just sort of like, you know, the whole idea of not valuing someone else’s life.

So that makes me feel like I have to take the —

You want to throw the book at him when he lacks remorse or a sense of having done anything wrong.


So, all right. Good.

Are there any other defenders who say it’s just categorically wrong, with or without consent?

Yes. Stand up. Why?

I think undoubtedly

the way our society is shaped murder is murder.

Murder is murder in every way and our society looks at murder down on the same light and I don’t think it’s any different in any case.

Good. Let me ask you a question.

There were three lives at stake versus one.


The one, the cabin boy, he had no family, he had no dependents, these other three had families back home in England; they had dependents; they had wives and children.

Think back to Bentham.

Bentham says we have to consider the welfare, the utility, the happiness of everybody.

We have to add it all up so it’s not just numbers, three against one; it’s also all of those people at home.

In fact, the London newspaper at that time and popular opinion sympathized with them, Dudley and Stevens, and the paper said if they weren’t motivated by affection and concern for their loved ones at home and their dependents, surely they wouldn’t have done this.

Yeah and how is that any different from people on a corner trying, with the same desire to feed their family.

I don’t think it’s any different.

I think in any case, if I’m murdering you to advance my status, that’s murder, and I think that we should look at all that in the same light instead of criminalizing certain activities and making certain things seem more violently savage when in the same case, it’s all the same, it’s all the same act and mentality that goes into murder, necessity to feed your family so — Suppose it weren’t three, Suppose the stakes are even bigger.

Suppose the stakes are even bigger?

I think it’s still the same deal.

You think Bentham is wrong to say the right thing to do is to add up the collective happiness?

You think he’s wrong about that?

I don’t think he’s wrong but I think murder is murder in any case.

Well, then Bentham has to be wrong.

If you’re right, he’s wrong.

Okay, then he’s wrong. I’m right.

All right. Thank you.

Well done. All right.

Let’s step back from this discussion and notice how many objections have we heard to what they did?

We heard some defenses of what they did.

The defenses had to do with necessity, their dire circumstance and, implicitly at least, the idea that numbers matter.

And not only numbers matter but the wider effects matter; their families back home, their dependents.

Parker was an orphan, no one would miss him.

So if you add up, if you try to calculate the balance of happiness and suffering, you might have a case for saying what they did was the right thing.

Then we heard at least three different types of objections.

We heard an objection that said what they did was categorically wrong, like here at the end, categorically wrong, murder is murder, it’s always wrong even if it increases the overall happiness of society, a categorical objection.

But we still need to investigate why murder is categorically wrong.

Is it because even cabin boys have certain fundamental rights?

And if that’s the reason, where do those rights come from if not from some idea of the larger welfare or utility or happiness?

Question number one.

Others said a lottery would make a difference, a fair procedure Matt said, and some people were swayed by that.

That’s not a categorical objection exactly.

It’s saying everybody has to be counted as an equal even though at the end of the day, one can be sacrificed for the general welfare.

That leaves us with another question to investigate.

Why does agreement to a certain procedure, even a fair procedure, justify whatever result flows from the operation of that procedure?

Question number two.

And question number three, the basic idea of consent.

Kathleen got us on to this.

If the cabin boy had agreed himself, and not under duress, as was added, then it would be all right to take his life to save the rest and even more people signed on to that idea.

But that raises a third philosophical question: What is the moral work that consent does?

Why does an act of consent make such a moral difference, that an act that would be wrong, taking a life without consent, is morally permissible with consent?

To investigate those three questions, we’re going to have to read some philosophers.

And starting next time, we’re going to read Bentham and John Stuart Mill, utilitarian philosophers.

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在 2010-12-05 08:04:02 读完了