October 26, 2009
between doing/allowing and intending/foreseeing, the two are separate, independent distinctions
and can come apart
1) To allow and intend Rachels example of letting nephew drown in order to gain
inheritance; or letting another patient die so you can harvest his organs for transplants to
save five others
2) To do and foresee-trolley example, collateral damage from bombing; painkillers vs.
The moral significance of the two distinctions is harder to assess when they are operating alone
ex. Rachels nephew example vs. case where you actively drown nephew; one is not more
morally objectionable than the other, so sometimes doing/allowing doesn’t make a moral
difference. Also in the trolley case, doing/allowing seems to make little difference since the
death of the one is merely foreseen.
It’s hard to assess the two distinctions on their own, and to decide how much each
counts when separated from the other; but this doesn’t affect central examples that
deontologists use against utilitarianism and consequentialism more generally. This is because in
those the two distinctions work together. One option is morally more objectionable in both
respects and one is morally less so in both respects.
Are these decisive objections to utilitarianism?
In the sheriff case example-the utilitarian can point to long-term effects: it would be terrible if
the deception were found out, and there’s a risk of that. Also, if you don’t catch real rapist, then
you can’t continue to look for him, and therefore can’t imprison him and prevent him from
committing future rapes.
The utilitarian can also answer with indirect/two-level utilitarianism: it’s best if we have our
strong intuitive response to these cases, since the overall consequences of our doing so are better
than if tried to decide cases by directly applying the utilitarian standard; Hare pp. 362-63.
Utilitarianism is a very simple moral theory, with just one principle telling us always to do
whatever produces most happiness. The objections to it in effect say that it’s too simple, because
it ignores factors that sometimes permit us not to produce most good, so it demands too much. It
also ignores factors that sometimes forbid us to produce the most good, so it permits too much,
e.g. in transplant, sheriff cases.
Ross-there is a duty to promote the good, but there are also independent duties that can conflict
and sometimes even outweigh that duty.
-similar to Moore, was a non