On Deontological Justifications of Nuclear Risks

Dissertation, University of California, Irvine (1989)

Some nuclear ethicists have argued that, given a deontological moral perspective, the risks of nuclear deterrence are justified only if the benefits of deterrence greatly exceed those risks. My dissertation explores the possibility that this is a mistake, that the risks of deterrence can be justified within a deontological moral framework even if the benefits of deterrence are only slightly larger or even smaller than those risks. In the first chapter, I outline and briefly discuss eight possible deontological justifications of nuclear risks, none of which require large net benefits from deterrence. The remaining chapters develop, analyze, and evaluate three of these justifications. ;One of the three is an attempt to justify the risks of deterrence by an appeal to the right of a nation to defend itself against an unwarranted threat to its security. I defend a particular formulation of the relevant principle of defense and then argue that, at best, only the risks imposed on the Soviet adult population can be justified by an appeal to this principle. The second justification is based on the proposition that, as the beneficiary of her government's defense policies, the Soviet citizen is liable for the threat to U.S. security generated by these policies. I defend this proposition; and I use it to construct a plausible argument that certain forms of deterrence may be justified even if their benefits do not exceed their risks. The third justification rests on the principle of double effect. I argue that the risks of deterrence are not intended and therefore, if the benefits of deterrence outweigh its costs, the risks of deterrence may be justified under this principle
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