Read the following thought experiment from Philippa Foot, and then write an essay that answers the questions that follow:
“Let us consider… a pair of cases which I shall call Rescue I and Rescue II. In the first Rescue story we are hurrying in our jeep to save some people – let there be five of them – who are imminently threatened by the ocean tide. We have not a moment to spare, so when we hear of a single person who also needs rescuing from some other disaster we say regretfully that we cannot rescue him, but must leave him to die. To most of us this seems clear […]. This is Rescue I and with it I contrast Rescue II. In this second story we are again hurrying to the place where the tide is coming in in order to rescue the party of people, but this time it is relevant that the road is narrow and rocky. In this version the lone individual is trapped (do not ask me how) on the path. If we are to rescue the five we would have to drive over him. But can we do so? If we stop he will be all right eventually: he is in no danger unless from us. But of course all five of the others will be drowned. As in the first story our choice is between a course of action which will leave one man dead and five alive at the end of the day and a course of action which will have the opposite result. (Philippa Foot, “Killing and Letting Die,” from Abortion and Legal Perspectives, eds. Garfield and Hennessey, 2004, University of Massachusetts Press)
1. What would Mill tell the rescuer to do, in Rescue I and Rescue II, according to his theory of utilitarianism? Be clear in explaining Mill’s recommendation, and how he would justify it. In doing so, you must include a discussion of the following:
o The Principle of Utility and how it would specifically apply in this situation—who gets “counted” and how?
2. What would Kant tell the rescuer to do, in Rescue I and Rescue II, according to his deontological theory? Be clear in explaining Kant’s recommendation and how he would justify it. In doing so, you must include a discussion of the following:
o The first version of the categorical Imperative and how it would specifically apply in these two situations (hint, you have to say what the maxim would be and what duty would be generated according to it).
o The second version of the Categorical Imperative and how it would specifically apply in this situation.
3. Explain one criticism of both Mill and Kant. Afterward, argue for which ethical approach, on your view is superior. Be specific and provide reasons for your claim.
Ethical decisions do not have any predetermined guidelines that have to be followed like
the biblical Ten Commandments. Rather, they are guidelines that help one to gauge what is
ethical to do when faced with various situations. Unlike the Ten Commandments which have no
two diverse interpretations but dictate what is to be done, ethics allow one to take a stand based
on the various ethical schools of thought. Utilitarians follow the thought systems proposed by
Stuart Mill by ensuring that their choices and actions promote the most happiness and pleasure.
Other people favor the ethics of duty as described by Immanuel Kant who proposed that all
people have a duty to act in morally praiseworthy ways. This article considers both utilitarianism
and ethics of duty in solving two case scenarios.
This is a case in which one is hurrying in a jeep save five people whose lives are
threatened by an ocean tide, but along the way, he or she hears of one person who is also in need
of rescuing from another disaster. Since no time can be spared, the rescuer has to regretfully
ignore the one person in favor of the five. Being driven by the desire to save more people, most
individuals would choose to proceed with their journey to save those people who would all
drown as a result of the coming tide.
This is a case in which one is hurrying in a jeep to save five people who are about to be
killed by an incoming tide. However, he or she has to pass through a narrow and rocky tide.
Unfortunately, along the way, he or she finds one person trapped in the middle of the narrow
rocky path. To be able to rescue the five people, the rescuer would have to drive over the lone
individual. If the rescuer stops, the trapped individual would eventually be alright, which means
the only danger he is in would be from the rescuer. Stopping however would mean that the five
people would be left to drown.
John Mill would advise the rescuer (Rescue I and II) to keep driving as fast as he or she
can to get to the five people as this would contribute the greatest good. According to Mill’s
principle of utilitarianism, the standard of right or wrong is promoting the “greatest amount of
happiness” for the largest group of people (White 1). According to this line of thought, any
choice that leads to an increase in the number of people who experience happiness is ethically
good while the choice that leads to an increase in the number of people who experience pain is
ethically bad. As such, Mill would suggest that the greatest happiness would be achieved by
saving the five people at the expense of the one person who also needs saving.
In the second rescue scenario, Mill would advise that the rescuer should drive over the
person who is trapped in the middle of the road. This is because rescuing five people would lead
to the greatest amount of happiness compared to stopping and waiting for the single person in the
road to get to safety and letting the five people to drown. If five people drown, a larger number
of people get to experience sadness, including their families, friends and dependents. On the
other hand, the death of a single person would only make a few people to experience sadness and