Should you let one drown to save a greater number through donations?
Andreas Mogensen (Oxford University)

March 1, 2018, 5:00pm - 6:30pm
School of Philosophy, University College Dublin

D522, Newman Building
Belfield Dublin 4

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Abstract: Some philosophers believe that your obligations to save the lives of distant strangers via charitable donations are no less stringent than your obligation to provide rescue in Peter Singer’s Shallow Pond case, in which you can rescue a small child from drowning at the cost of ruining your expensive clothes. If this Equivalence Principle were true, it would seem to follow that in Shallow Pond you ought to allow the child to drown, provided that you are able to make charitable donations expected to save at least two lives by selling the expensive clothes you would otherwise ruin. Intuitively, many feel it would be wrong to do this. I will consider three different ways in which someone otherwise attracted to the Equivalence Principle might respond to this objection. The first is a dismissive, bullet-biting response. The second appeals to the difference between act-evaluation and character-evaluation. Finally, I will consider how a recent theory of the moral significance of the distinction between identified and statistical lives may allow us to show the Equivalence Principle to be consistent with the idea that you ought to save the drowning child rather than a greater number through donations. 

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