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A Reappraisal of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing

A Reappraisal of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing

(p.25) 2 A Reappraisal of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing
Action, Ethics, and Responsibility
David K. Chan
The MIT Press

This chapter presents the examples commonly used to support the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing (DDA) and then shows that they do not sufficiently provide a foundation for the doctrine. The DDA justifies a moral distinction between doing something to bring about harm and doing nothing to prevent harm, defending this distinction on the basis of an account of positive and negative rights. The chapter argues in opposition of the deontological ethics supported by the DDA, which posits that although it is justified to allow one person to die so that one can save a larger number of people, it is not permissible to kill one person to achieve the same purpose, by supporting the notion that it can be justified to minimize harm by killing a smaller number of people, in preference to letting a greater number die. The moral significance of the distinction between killing and letting people die is also argued here.

Keywords:   negative rights, Doing and Allowing, DDA, deontological ethics, moral distinction, moral significance

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