Causing Death and Saving Lives by Jonathan Glover

By Jonathan Glover

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And, even restricting ourselves to people now alive, there are problems. Should we give weight to someone’s desire even where he will not know whether or not we have done so? ’) And what about a desire whose satisfaction will give no pleasure? (The man who on retirement fulfils his lifetime ambition, and finds that crossing the Sahara by Land Rover is not the sort of thing he enjoys after all. ) Those utilitarians who do not want to give weight to the desires of dead people, or to desires whose fulfilment does not bring any satisfaction, may restrict the desires to be considered and in doing so produce something more like the mental-state version.

But this is not a moral view that has much to be said for it in other contexts. The other assumption would be that conceiving a miserable person is a way of affecting someone for the worse, while conceiving a happy person is not a way of affecting someone for the better. It is hard to imagine how this view could be made at all plausible. The interpretation of the person-affecting restriction obviously varies according to whether or not conceiving someone counts as affecting him for better or worse.

2 The ‘Person-Affecting’ Restriction. This restriction says that an act is right or wrong only if there is or will be some person affected by it. Utilitarianism with this restriction rules out killing someone whose life is expected to be on balance happy. This is because he is an identifiable existing person, and killing him counts as affecting him for the worse. The restriction involves no time bias, as the future interests of present people, and the interests of people who will exist in the future, are taken into account.

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