On the Equivalence of Trolleys and Transplants: The Lack of Intrinsic Difference between ‘Collateral Damage’ and Intended Harm

Utilitas 26 (4):432-479 (2014)
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In this article I attempt to show conclusively that the apparent intrinsic difference between causing collateral damage and directly attacking innocents is an illusion. I show how eleven morally irrelevant alterations can transform an apparently permissible case of harming as a side-effect into an apparently impermissible case of harming as a means. The alterations are as obviously irrelevant as the victims’ skin colour, and consistently treating them as relevant would have unacceptable implications for choices between more and less harmful ways of securing greater goods. This shows not only how the principles philosophers have proposed for distinguishing between these cases cannot withstand scrutiny, but how we can be sure that there are no relevant differences yet to be discovered. I conclude by considering reasons to think that there are deontological constraints against harming, but that they apply just as forcefully against collateral harms as they do against intended harms.

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Howard Leo Nye
University of Alberta

References found in this work

Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Personal identity.Derek Parfit - 1971 - Philosophical Review 80 (January):3-27.

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