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Cecile Fabre
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Victor, how would you deal with the following two cases (pertaining to your point re duties owed to parents etc): - Orphaned children who (as far as we can tell) have no surviving relatives at all (not a fanciful example, as the sheer numbers of those children in war zones)? You might say of course that we owe a posthumous duty to the parents, etc. BUt there are serious worries about posthumous duties. - Children who have committed atrocities against their own relatives, incl their parents (again, cases abound in war) such that the latter do not (one might be tempted to argue) have a duty of care towards them. (It is thus not clear to me that a parent who has been repeatedly tortured by his child and has had to witness the latter hack their relatives with a machete, has a duty of care to that child.) On the point re supererogation, etc: if B lacks a claim against A to be rescued, then it is not clear to me why she has a claim against C that the latter not interfere with the rescue attempt. Here is a point, though, which you might perhaps find appealing, to wit: suppose that A starts rescuing B, thus creating some expectation on the latter's part that she will be rescued and perhaps leading her to modify her own conduct (eg she would have jumped out of the window to escape the house fire but is now waiting for A to get the ladder, etc). It seems to me, in that case, that B might well *acquire* a claim against A that the latter continue, or, at least, that A not give up unless she has pretty good reasons for so doing (indeed, stronger reasons perhaps than she would have had to adduce in order to justify not starting the rescue in the first instance.) And if that is correct, then, I would agree with you that C owes it to B not to interfere with A. But note, here, that B does have a claim against A, which distinguishes that case from yours. Note: in that example, we have to suppose that B is cognisant of A's effort. What about cases where she is not? There, I am not sure (to repeat) that the argument from supererogation will enable you to accommodate the surely correct intuition that the duty is owed to the child.
Toggle Commented Jan 30, 2010 on Scheffler's paradox: Persons vs. animals at PEA Soup
Pinto, thanks for your comments, which raise difficult, troubling issues. Regarding (d): well, that doctor may well nurture the hope that her patients would see sense, but I am troubled precisely by the case where she can reasonably be expected to know that they are not seeing sense. And, regarding (e): take the case of someone who enlists in the army with a view to defend his country from an unjust aggression, indeed even perhaps with a view to fight a war of humanitarian intervention abroad. Suppose however that a dictator seizes power, and presses the army to unjust ends. Or take munition factory workers, with a similar set of motives and constraints. Would you say that they too are immune from attack? On reflection, it seems to me that you and I would perhaps disagree on specific cases (should *this* doctor be liable, or *that* one? etc) but not on the general principle that special, role based duties to help can sometimes (often?) be overriden by general obligations not to contribute to the imposition of a wrongful harm.) Best Cecile
Reply to MAssimo 1. Pure functionalist argument (PFA) Massimo distinguishes between two needs which combatants incur whilst fighting: those the meeting of which serves to enhance their ability to fight and those the meetings of which is not directed to that end. Ex: if a soldier breaks his leg in battle, fixing his leg does not serve to enhance his fighting ability. Well, perhaps it does. That said, Massimo zooms in on something which I did not make sufficiently clear in the paper, when criticising the pure functionalist view. To wit: I accept the PFA’s premise that there is a difference between those two kinds of needs, and then I seek to show that, on those terms, PFA cannot offer blanket protection to civiliansw. That view is compatible with the claim that doctors who only pure welfare needs (for lack of a better label) are not liable. The question, then, is whether, on my view of noncombatant immunity, they are liable – whether, that is, a doctor is liable if he treats a soldier’s broken leg in the knowledge that this soldier will thus be able to get back to the front and carry on killing unjustly. My view is that, under certain conditions (going back to threshold liability) he is liable, even if it is appropriate to regard his medical contribution to the soldier’s ability to fight as non specialised. Again, however, this is not something which I discuss in my rebutall of PFA. Though Massimo is right when he notes that my claim ‘if direct participation is a sufficient condition for liability then both civiliansm and civiliansw are liable’is too strong. 2. Moralised functionalist argument (MFA). My rejection of this view applies to both specialised and non specialised treatment. Massimo objects, via the claim that we may well have obligations to compatriots which outweigh obligations to foreigners. He uses the example of providing medical care to his sister who (he knows) will then go on attacking someone else unjustly, and claims that he is under a duty to save her (though not under a duty to provide her with weapons.) Now, it is not clear to me at all that he is under a duty to save his sister in that particular case, nor in fact that he is permitted to do so (though he is excused). But even if I am wrong on that front, the example of the sister does not readily translate to that of compatriots: for even if there is a special relationship between compatriots, it is rather different (one would hope!) to familial relationships. Given that, in the case of the sister, it is the familial nature of the bond which most plausibly explains the presence of a permission (or a duty), it is not clear at all that the case helps with compatriots. Yet, here is a point against my own view, and in support of Massimo: soldiers from the same company/regiments are trained to build very intense bonds of trust and loyalty with one another (after all, their lives depend on this.) So perhaps the provision of medical care by one soldier to another, within that setting, most closely resemble the sister example. Even then, it is not clear at all that the argument would translate to less personalised relationships between food providers and soldiers. 3. Massimo’s third comment a tough one for my argument. As he notes, I make heavy weather of the point that a doctor who helps an unjust combatant must take into account the fact that someone will/is extremely likely to die, as a result of their contribution. And I justify my conclusion (that the doctor ought not to help) by appealing to the doctrine of acts and ommisssions: failing to help (the soldier) is morally preferable to contributing to harming (the victim). Massimo notes that there might be cases where a failure to help is worse than a contribution to the wrongful imposition of a harm, eg when the contribution is marginal. I cannot but agree to this. I also agree that whether or not the doctor’s role-based obligation to her combatant-patient depends on the kind of contribution to an unjust war which the now-healthy combatant will make (is he a general, a rank and file soldier, etc.) So more work needs to be done on this. Note, however, that my conclusion at the end of section IV (where I discuss MFA) is weaker than Massimo’s objection seems to imply: for all I say there is that ‘the mere fact of providing medical care to combatants provides the doctor with a moral justification for so acting irrespective of what those combatants will thereby be enabled to do. The intuitive power of the Hippocratic Oath argument is much diminished once one brings into view the fact that, in the cases that occupy us here, the doctor’s decision to treat the unjust combatant proves highly costly for the latter’s enemy – namely, the cost of being subject to a lethal threat to which they are not liable’ (55 – ital added here). That conclusion does make space for Massimo’s worries about the relative moral status of severe failure to help v. making a small contribution to the unjust imposition of a harm. In particular, it does allow me (I think) to agree with his claim that the mere fact of contributing to an unjust threat is not enough to exempt the doctor from a special, role-based duty to help. It remains the case, however, that the MFA cannot serve to provide a blanket exemption to doctors (as I think Massimo would agree.) And this concludes, for now, my replies to those many, very constructive comments. Cecile
On the discussion between Josh, Doug Dan and Victor re ‘providing the means of fighting’ I basically agree with Doug (11/1, 11:38) that, even if guns kill, not food, food is nevertheless a means of killing. Historians of WWI thus often say that severe and persistent hunger adversely affected the German army’s ability to fight in 1918. But Dan raises yet another interesting issue, to wit, whether soldiers themselves can be regarded as means of killing. In a sense, yes: without rank and file soldiers, the killings ordered by the government via the general staff simply cannot take place. This however is compatible with the thought that those who provide those means of killing are not doctors and food providers but, rather, recruitment personnel (of whom I have little difficulty to say that they are liable, in war, if the war which they help fight is unjust, etc.) At this juncture in the exchange, Victor revisited his earlier point that, by curing soldiers, we enable them to do all sorts of valuable things: not so by providing them with weapons. But I think that the contrast is overdrawn. First, a soldier whom we cure might go on to do pretty horrible things; second, to reiterate, a soldier on the unjust side might nevertheless have the right to defend himself on occasions and, indeed, to defend others (eg: German soldiers defending German women from gangrape at the hands of the Soviet army in the winter and spring 1945). Third – after the war – those soldiers on the unjust side who survived may well make a valuable contribution to reconstruction, etc. (This point raises a very tricky issue: should the just belligerent take into account, when deciding whether to kill unjust soldiers, the post bellum costs (to the community unjustly engaged in war, and to itself) of a wholesale destruction of its enemy’s manpower? And so on.)
Victor suggests an important difference between civiliansm and civiliansw: if the soldiers whom the latter help do not go on killing, then helping them is permissible (even mandatory.) Not so with providing weapons (it is always bad to provide weapons to the unjust side even if those soldiers do not use them.) This is an interesting point, which I only touch upon in the paper. Unlike Victor, though, I believe that it is wrong to cure someone Y who, we know, has the intention and the means to kill V – unless we also know for sure that he will fail. The tricky issue is that of deciding whether to help in the case where we do not know for sure whether Y will succeed. There, it seems to me, we must decide whose life should be given greater weight: Y, or the Victim whom he has a x/100 chance of killing. Again, this is one case where we may not be able to get to a general, fixed principle. But what we must never forget is the fact that V’s life is in the balance. Incidentally, I also believe that the case of weapons is closer to the case of medical treatment than Victor suggests: this is because soldiers on the unjust side are quite often threatened unjustly by soldiers on the just side; providing them with weapons, in that case, might seem prima facie permissible. Finally, I have no stand yet on whether excuses affect permissibility (whether, that is, the permissibility of killing Y in part depends on the degree to which Y has an excuse (as opposed to a justification) for killing. But note that my focus in the paper is on liability, not excuses (see end of my previous long posting for more on this.)
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Posted Dec 15, 2009 at C Fabre's blog
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Dec 15, 2009