Killing and the Time-relative Interest Account

The Journal of Ethics 15 (3):169-189 (2011)
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Jeff McMahan appeals to what he calls the “Time-relative Interest Account of the Wrongness of Killing ” to explain the wrongness of killing individuals who are conscious but not autonomous. On this account, the wrongness of such killing depends on the victim’s interest in his or her future, and this interest, in turn, depends on two things: the goods that would have accrued to the victim in the future; and the strength of the prudential relations obtaining between the victim at the time of the killing and at the times these goods would have accrued to him or her. More precisely, when assessing this interest, future goods should be discounted to reflect reductions in the strength of such relations. Against McMahan’s account I argue that it relies on an implausible “actualist” view of the moral importance of interests according to which satisfactions of future interests only have moral significance if they are satisfactions of actual interests. More precisely, I aim to show that the Time-relative Interest Account does not have the implications for the morality of killing that McMahan takes it to have, and implies, implausibly, that certain interest satisfactions which seem to be morally significant are morally insignificant because they are not satisfactions of actual interests



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Nils Holtug
University of Copenhagen

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Practical Ethics.Peter Singer - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Susan J. Armstrong & Richard George Botzler.

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