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August 06 , 2008

Taking Life: Three Theories on the Ethics of Killing


When and why is it right to kill? When and why is it wrong? Torbjorn Tannsjo examines three theories on the ethics of killing in this book: deontology, a libertarian moral rights theory, and utilitarianism. The implications of each theory are worked out for different kinds of killing: trolley-cases, murder, capital punishment, suicide, assisted death, abortion, killing in war, and the killing of animals. These implications are confronted with our intuitions in relation to them, and our moral intuitions are examined in turn. Only those intuitions that survive an understanding of how we have come to hold them are seen as considered intuitions. The idea is that the theory that can best explain the content of our considered intuitions gains inductive support from them. We must transcend our narrow cultural horizons and avoid certain cognitive mistakes in order to hold considered intuitions. In this volume, suitable for courses in ethics and applied ethics, Tannsjo argues that in the final analysis utilitarianism can best account for, and explain, our considered intuitions about all these kinds of killing.

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