Should the Numbers Count?
Taurek (John M.)
Source: Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 7, no. 4 (Summer, 1978), pp. 285-301
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. We have resources for bestowing benefits and for preventing harms. But there are limitations. There are many people we are not in a position to help at all. That is one kind of limitation.
  2. But there is another kind of limitation we encounter. Often we must choose between bestowing benefits on certain people, or preventing certain harms from befalling them, and bestowing benefits on or preventing harms from befalling certain others. We cannot do both.
  3. The general question discussed here is whether we should, in such trade-off situations, consider the relative numbers of people involved as something in itself of significance in determining our course of action1.
  4. The conclusion I reach is that we should not. I approach this general question by focusing on a particular hypothetical case in which we find ourselves in a position of being able to prevent a certain harm from befalling one person or to prevent a like harm from befalling each of five others, but unable to spare all six from harm.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

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