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Should We Prevent Optimific Wrongs?


Most people believe that some optimific acts are wrong. Since we are not permitted to perform wrong acts, we are not permitted to carry out optimific wrongs. Does the moral relevance of the distinction between action and omission nonetheless permit us to allow others to carry them out? I show that there exists a plausible argument supporting the conclusion that it does. To resist my argument, we would have to endorse a principle according to which, for any wrong action, there is some reason to prevent that action over and above those reasons associated with preventing harm to its victim(s). I argue that it would be a mistake to value the prevention of wrong acts in the way required to resist my argument.

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Jamie Dreier , ‘Structures of Normative Theories’, The Monist 76 (1993), pp. 2240

Marc Hauser , Fiery Cushman , Liane Young , R. Kang-Xing Jin , and John Mikhail , ‘A Dissociation Between Moral Judgments and Justifications’, Mind & Language 22 (2007), pp. 121

Fiona Woollard , ‘The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing’, Philosophy Compass 7 (2012), pp. 448–69

Frances Kamm , ‘Rights beyond Interests’, in her Intricate Ethics (Oxford, 2007), pp. 237–84

Jeff McMahan , ‘Intention, Permissibility, Terrorism and War’, Philosophical Perspectives 23 (2009), pp. 345–72

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky , ‘Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk’, Econometrica 47 (1979), pp. 263–92

Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen , Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right and Wrong (Oxford, 2009)

Ronald Arkin , Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots (Boca Raton, 2009)

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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