Killing, Letting Die, and the Denial of Resources

Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles (2003)

Timothy Hall
Wilfrid Laurier University
The traditional non-consequentialist moral distinction between doing and allowing harm should be revised. A trichotomy consisting of what I call central cases of harming, refraining from aiding, and denying resources is more apt way of distinguishing behaviors. ;I argue that there are morally significant differences between denial behaviors and each of the other two categories of behavior. I first employ what has been called the method of comparable cases in support of this conclusion. I also provide a second argument by appealing to a conjunction of claims held by many non-consequentialists: a commitment to stringent, pre-political rights persons have over mindedness as to the correct principles of justice in distribution of external resources. Denial behaviors are distinct from the other two behaviors, I argue, because their moral status is determined by principles of justice in distribution to an extent to which the moral status of the other behaviors is not. ;I apply the distinction between denying resources and the other two categories of behavior to many outstanding applied topics, such as abortion, euthanasia, punishment, and what has been called the problem of ducking harm. For example, I provide a novel objection to the claim that abortion is permissible even if a fetus is a moral person. The personhood of the fetus will protect it against the initiation of attacks common in abortion, I argue, but not against the withdrawal of aid contemplated in Judith Thomson's famous violinist example
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