Making Mortal Choices: Three Exercises in Moral Casuistry / Edition 1

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The answer, to crew and passengers aboard the sinking lifeboat, must have seemed both grimly obvious and unthinkably alien. To save the lives of many, the lives of some would have to be sacrificed. With seawater crashing over the gunwhales, only a lightening of the human cargo would keep the craft afloat. In a procedure that took much of the night, fourteen men and two women were consigned to watery graves.
This notorious event, aftermath to the sinking of the William Brown in 1841, represents a shocking example of life and death decision-making, a case where cruel circumstance would seem to argue the permissibility of taking innocent human life. In Making Mortal Choices, philosopher Hugo Bedau examines this case as well as two similar cases of hypothetical origin, generating a remarkably clear and accessible demonstration of philosophical reasoning in cases where it must be decided who ought to survive when not all can.
Bedau's approach, a form of practical ethics descended from the ancient (and oft-misunderstood) method of casuistry, involves solving complex moral problems in careful analytic increments and only after a broad canvassing of possibilities, rather than through the top-down application of some general moral theory or principle.
Aimed at both general readers and philosophers interested in the revival of casuistic method, Making Mortal Choices illuminates not only how we reason in life and death situations, but also how we ought to reason if we wish both to be consistent and to properly respect human life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"At once sophisticated, fascinating, and highly readable and accessible by a non-philosophy audience."—Norman Daniels, Tufts University

"The essays do an excellent job of motivating philosophical thought and exhibiting the worth of philosophical reflection. In addition they deepen the reader's understanding of both life and death choices and various important moral principles."—Stephen Nathanson, Northeastern University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195108781
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 136
  • Sales rank: 1,026,328
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Hugo Adam Bedau is Austin Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. He is the author or editor of several books on civil disobedience and on the death penalty, including his most recent, The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies (OUP, 1997).

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Table of Contents

1 Seaman Holmes and the Sinking of the William Brown 5
2 The Speluncean Explorers and the Death of Roger Whetmore 41
3 Jim and the Indians in the Jungle Clearing 71
App The Historical Background of Casuistry 101
Notes 107
Index 119
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