Michael Rabenberg (Princeton University): "Imprecision in the Ethics of Rescue"

Wed, Nov 20, 2019, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Location: 
Lewis Library, Room 120
Audience: 
Free And Open To The Public

ABSTRACT: Many think that if you can save two people or one other person but cannot save all three, then you are morally required, ceteris paribus, to save the two. But some also think that if you can save 1,001 people or 1,000 other people but cannot save all 2,001, then you are morally permitted, ceteris paribus, to save the 1,000. In this talk, I defend the conjunction of these two claims, in large part by arguing that although it is worse, ceteris paribus, for two people to die than for one other person to die, it is not worse, ceteris paribus, for 1,001 people to die than for 1,000 other people to die.

Michael Rabenberg is a philosopher whose work focuses on normative issues concerning death. Three interrelated questions guide much of his research: (1) Is death ever bad for the one who dies; and if so, under what circumstances, why, and to what extent is death bad for the one who dies? (2) What attitudes ought one have concerning one’s own death? (3) Under what circumstances, and why, are we morally required to prevent other people from dying; and under what circumstances, and why, are we morally permitted to kill other people? Rabenberg holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University and an A.B. in philosophy and English from Kenyon College.

Elizabeth Harman is Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values, Director of Early-Career Research.

Peter Singer will chair.