Creation and Abortion: A Study in Moral and Legal Philosophy

By F. M. Kamm | Go to book overview
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It might be argued that the baseline should be part (a) of Figure 1, because we use part (a) as a baseline when we disconnect someone from life support and then allow him to die, thus making him what he was--both alive and dying-- before being connected. (I owe this observation to Joseph Rizzo.) Because it is not generally permissible to kill someone who will die soon anyway, it may be argued that it should not be permissible to kill someone who would have died soon if he had not been attached to you. In answer I point out that: (1) To produce a sufficient good, it may be permissible to kill someone who will die soon anyway; and (2) Suppose that we would not kill someone at tl if he will soon die at t2. We might still think it is permissible to kill at t3 in the violinist's case because t2--when the violinist would have died--is in the past by t3, and the person would have been dead at t2.
A third type of case is that of a person who is not even causally involved in producing the threat but is on it. A villain may have put him there, or else a natural event (e.g., a gust of wind) blew him onto the threat, which has an adhesive surface. Such persons are referred to as innocent shields.
Nancy Davis, "Abortion and Self-Defense", Philosophy and Public Affairs 13( 1984):175-207.
What if it were her duty to sit on an object before it became a threat? The object should still not become a threat to someone, and she should not be on it when it is a threat.
Likewise, someone who is afflicted with a disease that makes him a threat should be responsible for not harming others, even though he is not morally responsible for his illness.
I first made this point in "Problems in the Morality of Killing and Letting Die" (Ph.D. diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1980).
I first used this example in a discussion of what innocent threats owe their victims, in my article The Insanity Defense, Innocent Threats and Limited Alternatives, Criminal Justice Ethics, Summer 1987, pp. 61-76. I tried to prove that the innocent threat has a duty not to cause harm, and I derived from this his duty to undo such harm if he were unable to prevent himself from causing it, as well as his duty to compensate anyone he does harm if he cannot undo the harm. I now suspect these conclusions go too far, but it is interesting, I think, to figure out why. Our discussion in this book summarizes part of this earlier piece.
Further discussion of what efforts we are justified in avoiding by killing, which completes the analysis of this topic, occurs in Chapter 3, and is summarized on p. 70.
Larry Crocker and Julian Lamont kindly commented on this chapter.


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