Causation and the making/allowing distinction

Philosophical Studies 114 (1-2):81 - 106 (2003)
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Throw: Harry throws a stone at Dick, hitting him. Intuitively, there is a moral difference between the first and the second case of each of these pairs.1 In the second case, the agent’s behavior is morally worse than his behavior in the first case. But in each pair, the agent’s behavior has the same outcome: in No Check and Shoot, the outcome is that a child dies, and Jim saves $40; in No Catch and Throw, the outcome is that Dick is hit by a stone. Let us call these pairs of cases “the paradigm pairs.” The paradigm pairs, and others like them, provide evidence that common sense morality is not consequentialist: common sense morality does not judge the moral worth of actions just in terms of their consequences. But it has proved extremely difficult to provide an account of a morally relevant difference between the members of pairs like the ones above. One hypothesis about the difference that has received a lot of attention in the literature is that in the first kind of case the agent allows the outcome to occur, while in the second the agent makes the..



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Sarah McGrath
Princeton University

References found in this work

The limits of morality.Shelly Kagan - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Causation as influence.David Lewis - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):182-197.
Causation and persistence: a theory of causation.Douglas Ehring - 1997 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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