- There is a domain in which arguments of the sort advanced in "Taurek (John M.) - Should the Numbers Count?" are proof against the criticism offered by "Parfit (Derek) - Innumerate ethics".
- Parfit is willing to recognize that it is rational and moral to save my own arm-or the arm of my friend or family member-rather than the life of a stranger. Presumably Parfit also agrees that it is rational to choose a course of conduct which would mean saving my own life-or that of a friend or family member-rather than saving the lives of five strangers. What he disagrees with is the proposition that it could be moral to save the life of one person rather than the lives of five when all six are equally strangers to me and there are no other relevant distinctions between the two choices, such as the fact that saving the five is more costly or more hazardous.
- I am puzzled. Consider
Case One: I could save either one stranger or five others. Both acts would involve a heroic personal sacrifice. I choose, for no reason, to save the one rather than the five.
- Fried argues:
- Since both acts would involve a heroic sacrifice, I could not be criticized if I chose to do neither.
- If I could not be criticized for choosing to do neither, I cannot be criticized for choosing to do one rather than the other.
- When I choose to save the one rather than the five, my choice cannot be criticized.
- Fried rejects (3). Though my act is heroic, he concedes that my choice is "perverse" and "morally deficient." Since he rejects his conclusion, he must abandon one of his premises. He does not suggest which. I suggest (2). There are countless pairs of acts such that I could not be criticized for choosing neither, while I could be criticized for choosing one rather than the other. Suppose that I could save either Fried's life or his umbrella. If both acts would involve a heroic sacrifice, I could not be criticized for choosing neither. But I could be criticized if I chose to save the umbrella.
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