Philosophical Psychology 24 (1):73-94 (2011)

Authors
Bryce Huebner
Georgetown University
Abstract
Altruistic self-sacrifice is rare, supererogatory, and not to be expected of any rational agent; but, the possibility of giving up one's life for the common good has played an important role in moral theorizing. For example, Judith Jarvis Thomson (2008) has argued in a recent paper that intuitions about altruistic self-sacrifice suggest that something has gone wrong in philosophical debates over the trolley problem. We begin by showing that her arguments face a series of significant philosophical objections; however, our project is as much constructive as critical. Building on Thomson's philosophical argument, we report the results of a study that was designed to examine commonsense intuitions about altruistic self-sacrifice. We find that a surprisingly high proportion of people judge that they should give up their lives to save a small number of unknown strangers. We also find that the willingness to engage in such altruistic self-sacrifice is predicted by a person's religious commitments. Finally, we show that folk-moral judgments are sensitive to agent-relative reasons in a way that diverges in important ways from Thomson's proposed intuitions about the trolley problem. With this in mind, we close with a discussion of the relative merits of folk intuitions and philosophical intuitions in constructing a viable moral theory.
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2010.534447
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
The View From Nowhere.Thomas Nagel - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.

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Citations of this work BETA

Mindlessness.Ezio Di Nucci - 2013 - Cambridge Scholars Press.
Self-Sacrifice and the Trolley Problem.Ezio Di Nucci - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (5):662-672.
Empathy and the Limits of Thought Experiments.Erick Ramirez - 2017 - Metaphilosophy 48 (4):504-526.
Trolleys and Double Effect in Experimental Ethics.Ezio Di Nucci - forthcoming - In Christoph Luetge, Hannes Rusch & Matthias Uhl (eds.), Experimental Ethics. Palgrave-Macmillan.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

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