Consequentialism and the nearest and dearest objection
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Ian Ravenscroft (ed.), Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals: Themes from the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Oxford University Press (2009)
Imagine that Bloggs is faced with a choice between giving a benefit to his child, or a slightly greater benefit to a complete stranger. The benefit is whatever the child or the stranger can buy for $100 — Bloggs has $100 to give away — and it just so happens that the stranger would buy something from which he would gain a slightly greater benefit than would Bloggs's child. Let's stipulate that Bloggs believes this to be, and let's stipulate, as well, that he believes that the consequences of his actions are otherwise identical. He chooses to give the benefit to his child. What do we learn about Bloggs from his choice? We learn that Bloggs cares more about his child than he does about complete strangers. Nor is anyone likely to be surprised by this, for it just goes to show that he is much like the rest of us. He gives preferential treatment to his nearest and dearest when he acts, those with whom he has a special relationship, much as we do.
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