Taurek, numbers and probabilities

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (2):149 - 166 (2006)
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In his paper, “Should the Numbers Count?" John Taurek imagines that we are in a position such that we can either save a group of five people, or we can save one individual, David. We cannot save David and the five. This is because they each require a life-saving drug. However, David needs all of the drug if he is to survive, while the other five need only a fifth each.Typically, people have argued as if there was a choice to be made: either numbers matter, in which case we should save the greater number, or numbers don't matter, but rather there is moral value in giving each person an equal chance of survival, and therefore we should toss a coin. My claim is that we do not have to make a choice in this way. Rather, numbers do matter, but it doesn't follow that we should always save the greater number. And likewise, there is moral value in giving each person an equal chance of survival, but it doesn't follow that we should always toss a coin.



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Rob Lawlor
University of Leeds

Citations of this work

Each Counts for One.Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
A Defence of Weighted Lotteries in Life Saving Cases.Ben Saunders - 2009 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (3):279-290.
Numbers scepticism, equal chances and pluralism: Taurek revisited.Gerald Lang & Rob Lawlor - 2016 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 15 (3):298-315.
Relevance rides again? Aggregation and local relevance.Aart van Gils & Patrick Tomlin - 2020 - In David Sobel, Peter Vallentyne & Steven Wall (eds.), Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy Volume 6. Oxford University Press.

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References found in this work

Should the numbers count?John Taurek - 1977 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (4):293-316.
Comparing Harms: Headaches and Human Lives.Alastair Norcross - 1997 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 26 (2):135-167.
Innumerate ethics.Derek Parfit - 1978 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 7 (4):285-301.
Speed Limits, Human Lives, and Convenience: A Reply to Ridge.Alastair Norcross - 1998 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 27 (1):59-64.

View all 6 references / Add more references