Fairness in life and death cases

Erkenntnis 62 (3):321 - 351 (2005)
John Taurek famously argued that, in ‘conflict cases’, where we are confronted with a smaller and a larger group of individuals, and can choose which group to save from harm, we should toss a coin, rather than saving the larger group. This is primarily because coin-tossing is fairer: it ensures that each individual, regardless of the group to which he or she belongs, has an equal chance of being saved. This article provides a new response to Taurek’s argument. It proposes that there are two possible types of unfairness that have to be avoided in conflict cases, as far as possible: ‘selection unfairness’, which is the unfairness of not giving individuals an equal chance of being saved; and ‘outcome unfairness’, which is the unfairness of not actually saving them, when others are saved. Since saving the greater number generates less outcome unfa-irness than coin-tossing, it is argued that, in many conflict cases, fairness demands that we save the greater number.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Ethics   Logic   Ontology
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References found in this work BETA
Thomas Scanlon (1998). What We Owe to Each Other. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
John M. Taurek (1977). Should the Numbers Count? Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (4):293-316.
Larry S. Temkin (1986). Inequality. Philosophy and Public Affairs 15 (2):99-121.

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