Fairness in life and death cases

Erkenntnis 62 (3):321 - 351 (2005)
Abstract
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.
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