A Puzzle about the Demands of Morality
Hershenov (David)
Source: Philosophical Studies 107, Number 3, February 2002, pp. 275-289(15)
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsColour-ConventionsDisclaimer

Philosophers Index Abstract

    Two thought experiments1 are provided which elicit what appear to be opposing judgments about the demands of morality. One Unger-inspired thought experiment2 suggests that a person must give up four decades of earnings just to save a single life. The other evokes the contrary intuition that one doesn't have to labor forty years without compensation in order to prevent the death of an individual. However, considerations of consistency do not demand that we abandon one of our intuitive responses. This is because there is a morally significant difference between the two burdens that the people suffer in the respective thought experiments3. The difference is a result of human psychology being such that it is easier to bear the aftermath of an event that renders one's earlier efforts futile than it is to suffer identical efforts going unrewarded in the future. A conclusion that can be drawn from this temporal asymmetry is that while morality is not quite as demanding as Unger and many consequentialists maintain, it is much more demanding than many of their opponents realize.


For the full text, see Hershenov - A Puzzle about the Demands of Morality.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - June 2020. Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com. File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page