Scott wrote: ↑June 7th, 2021, 1:43 pm
CIN wrote: ↑May 29th, 2021, 7:23 pm
The problem I have here is that I just can't buy into the scenario. There just isn't a way in which killing one child could cure cancer. So if I was told that I had to kill a child to cure cancer, I would simply say, 'I don't believe you.' And then I would report the person who had told me to kill the child to the authorities, as a dangerous lunatic.
Can you imagine a hypothetical scenario in which murdering a child is a means to saving the lives of multiple innocent people?
Would you murder an innocent child to save many innocent people?
What about to save a few innocent people?
No, I wouldn't, for two reasons.
The first reason is that the prohibition against murder is a necessary condition for the existence of a society in which people can live reasonably happy lives. Every murder, even if it is punished, weakens everyone's confidence in the safety of the society they live in, increasing levels of fear and making it harder for people to trust each other and live happily. Since the ultimate moral good is happiness, murder works against the moral good even if at first sight it looks as if it doesn't.
The second reason is that a calculation such as you are suggesting is impossible to carry out. In effect you are suggesting that the evil of murdering the child is outweighed by the good that comes from the murder. This calculation can never be done correctly. To do it correctly, you would have to calculate the effects of murdering and the effects of not murdering right to the end of time, which can't be done.
For both of these reasons, the moral thing to do is to follow moral rules of thumb that have been shown to generally increase happiness, rather than trying to follow a basic moral principles such as 'maximise happiness,' which would require us to do a calculation that in practice no-one can do.