Aggregation, Beneficence, and Chance

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 7 (2):1-19 (2013)
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It is plausible to think that it is wrong to cure many people’s headaches rather than save someone else’s life. On the other hand, it is plausible to think that it is not wrong to expose someone to a tiny risk of death when curing this person’s headache. I will argue that these claims are inconsistent. For if we keep taking this tiny risk then it is likely that one person dies, while many others’ headaches are cured. In light of this inconsistency, there is a conflict in our intuitions about beneficence and chance. This conflict is perplexing. And I have not been able to find a satisfactory way of resolving it. Perhaps you can do better?

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Tom Dougherty
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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