In dubious battle: uncertainty and the ethics of killing

Article

Abstract

How should deontologists concerned with the ethics of killing apply their moral theory when we don’t know all the facts relevant to the permissibility of our action? Though the stakes couldn’t be higher, and uncertainty is endemic where killing is concerned, few deontologists have an answer to this question. In this paper I canvass two possibilities: that we should apply a threshold standard, equivalent to the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard applied for criminal punishment; and that we should fit our deontological ethical theory into the apparatus of decision theory. I show that the first approach faces insurmountable obstacles, while the second holds much more promise for deontologists than they (and their critics) might first have assumed.

Keywords

Self-defence Uncertainty Deontological ethics Normative ethics Killing Harm Liability Decision theory 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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