Autonomy and the Moral Symmetry Principle: Reply to Frowe and Tooley

Res Publica 24 (4):531-541 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Helen Frowe has recently objected to Michael Tooley’s famous Moral Symmetry Principle, which is meant to show that in themselves killing and letting die are morally equivalent. I argue that her objection is not compelling but a more compelling objection is available. Specifically, Tooley’s rebuttal of a proposed counter-example to his Moral Symmetry Principle has two problematic implications. First, it undercuts the very principle itself. If we reject the proposed counter-example, then any instance of the Moral Symmetry Principle will actually demonstrate the moral in-equivalence of killing and letting die. Second, it commits us to the view, which Tooley wishes to avoid, that we are just as obligated to refrain from doing wrong as we are to prevent others from doing the same. I conclude with a brief discussion of a more general concern regarding Tooley’s basic strategy. My focus here is quite narrow. My claims, if plausible, only show that the Moral Symmetry Principle is unsound and thus cannot serve as a basis for the view that killing and letting die are morally equivalent.

Similar books and articles

Frowe's Machine Cases.Simkulet William - 2015 - Filosofiska Notiser 2 (2): 93-104.
Tooley's moral symmetry principle.Richard Louis Trammell - 1976 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 5 (3):305-313.
Self-other asymmetry.Ruwen Ogien - 2008 - Les Ateliers de L’Ethique 3 (1):79-89.
Curie's principle.Jenann Ismael - 1997 - Synthese 110 (2):167-190.
Correspondence.Robert Howell, Edward Langerak, Adam Morton & Michael Tooley - 1973 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (4):407-432.
Symmetry as a method of proof.Eric Hammer - 1996 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 25 (5):523 - 543.
Les brisures de symetrie du temps.Alexandre Laforgue - 1993 - Acta Biotheoretica 41 (1-2):105-117.
Les brisures de symetrie du temps.Alexandre Laforgue - 1994 - Acta Biotheoretica 42 (1):105-117.
Self-Defence and the Principle of Non-Combatant Immunity.Helen Frowe - 2011 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (4):530-546.
Defensive Killing.Helen Frowe - 2014 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Terrorism, Secularism, and the Deaths of Innocents.John P. Reeder - 2011 - Journal for Peace and Justice Studies 21 (2):70-94.
Well-Being as the Object of Moral Consideration.David Sobel - 1998 - Economics and Philosophy 14 (2):249.


Added to PP

382 (#49,643)

6 months
87 (#46,430)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Jacob Blair
California State University, Hayward

Citations of this work

Add more citations

References found in this work

Abortion and infanticide.Michael Tooley - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (1):37-65.
Abortion and Infanticide.Michael Tooley - 1972 - Philosophy 59 (230):545-547.
The additive fallacy.Shelly Kagan - 1988 - Ethics 99 (1):5-31.
Abortion and Infanticide.Nancy Davis - 1985 - Philosophical Review 94 (3):436.

View all 10 references / Add more references